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Americans Are Grieving Normalcy: Discover How People Are Responding to the Pandemic and Why


As Americans, we are suffering emotionally.  We are feeling this pandemic and the complex emotions that accompany the loss of normal.  We cannot go to our favorite eatery. We cannot travel.  We cannot escape reality at a movie theater.  We cannot get a simple haircut. We know we are suffering, but we may not know exactly why.  To make matters worse, we are suffering financially without a solution to the problem.  We feel helpless.

If you can relate to these feelings, it is important to understand why and what is next emotionally.  We all grieve differently; however, there are stages we are likely to experience over time.  There is not a clear progression from one stage to another.  There is regression to previous stages. There are general guidelines for us to know what to expect going forward.

Our first response to the pandemic is shock and denial.  We did not want to believe our lives are going to change.  We see what is happening but never thought it would happen to us.  Not here.  This is America.  We are insulated from the problems other countries face.  We are numb and deny the reality of our loss of routine and habits.

Our next response is pain and guilt.  We cannot believe this is really happening.  As our shock wears off, we are suffering and in real pain.  It is important that we acknowledge this pain and don’t try to hide it.  Don’t try to escape it.  We feel guilty because we are not better prepared.  How can I let this happen to me and my family? My life feels chaotic, and I am not myself.  Nothing feels normal.  I keep waking up and remember this is happening.

Now we are feeling anger.  I am so frustrated and it pisses me off.  Who can I blame for this?  This stage is fuel for the media and politicians.  Somebody is at fault.  I am angry because I no longer have control of the situation.  I cannot fix this.  In this stage, we begin to bargain.  If I get through this I will never be in this situation again.  I will be better prepared.  We realize the illusion of control.

Once the anger subsides, we are depressed and feel lonely.  We feel isolated even if there are people with us.  We are recessing into our minds.  We are sad about the present and reflect upon the past.  We look at old vacation pictures or happy times in places we can no longer access.  This is a very important stage because we realize the magnitude of our loss.  Lost graduations, sporting events, marriage ceremonies, and other precious times are not going to happen for a while.  Some will be lost forever.  Olympians that made this year’s team will not make next year’s team.  I will never walk across the stage after finishing my time at this university. The window will be closed forever.

Now we experience the upturn.  As reality sets in, we start to look forward.  We feel better but are not completely healed.  We see a light at the end of the dark tunnel.  We know the business will return, and we will soon gather together.  We think of good times to come when we can gather again with loved ones.  We are talking about sports and other activities that are important to us.

Let’s get back to work.  In this phase, we start working through the next reality of our life.  Athletes are working out and preparing for the upcoming season.  Business is finding another gear.  People are planning and executing.  As you become more functional, your mind starts working again.  You find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems. You work on practical and financial problems while reconstructing yourself and your business.  You focus on helping others get through this difficult time.

Finally, you accept this new reality.  It does not mean you are happy.  You remember the pain and suffering.  You know you will be different.  You reflect on the past without the emotion you once felt.  You know you will never forget this time.  You appreciate the lessons you learned about yourself, business, and life.  You look to the future with hope and optimism.

Each of us is in one of these stages.  We understand grieving is a process that we are going to get through.  It is not easy.  Starting September 7, 1940, Germany began “The Blitz”.  For fifty-six nights, the Luftwaffe carpet-bombed London, England.  Every night, millions of people ran into tunnels and sewers below the city.  Every day, people crawled out of holes like animals to see what was left of their homes, their jobs, and their city.  This repeated itself for almost two months.  Years later, Sebastian Junger interviewed some of these survivors who were in their 80s and 90s.  Many of them remember that time as one of the best in their lives.  Amidst the devastating loss, they became closer to each other.  Maybe, just maybe, we will remember this pandemic the same way.

Americans Are Grieving Normalcy
Another insightful blog, Mr. Grubbs. I had not thought of what we're currently dealing with as grieving but you are absolutely right. Having it identified for me will be very helpful in understanding the feelings and emotions we're all facing. Wishing you and your family the very best during this difficult time.
(April 07, 2020 ~ 9:21 AM)
By Anonymous