COVID-19 is impacting every single person on the planet!

Life will never be the same as it was before the pandemic, for any one of us. So many things have already changed in our working environments, our companies, politics, healthcare, travel, and education. Some businesses will be forced to close, and new careers will be born. In all of this, there is so much that is unknown about what the future holds. Some people see 2020 as the most exciting and vibrant time to live in, and others believe that it’s a period of doom and despair. Regardless of which way you look at it, life will never be the same again. It’s now important to understand – psychologically and emotionally – that our old life has ended, and that we need to transition to a new one. We need to slowly start to create a new life for ourselves and for our loved ones.

This week’s blog is on a rather unusual topic: how to give yourself permission to grieve your old life and find meaning in a new one. For the past five months, I haven’t been in a single coaching session where the topic of COVID-19 hasn’t come up. People share their fears, their apprehension of the unknown, and the pain it has caused them. I have noticed that my clients are, unknowingly, grieving the end of the life they knew before this pandemic. Under normal circumstances, we battle to grieve the loss of a loved one, but how do we grieve for something that’s not a person, but an actual life that involves us?

Understanding grief

Grieving is a very healthy and important process of letting go of a loved one. It’s a deeply painful, emotional process, and it brings up many emotions such as denial, anger, betrayal, disappointment, guilt, sadness, and relief. There will be days where you’ll want to talk about your loss, and others where you don’t even have the energy to get out of bed. Grieving means being consciously present and feeling the pain, as well as remembering the happy moments you shared together.

There’s no difference between grieving for a loved one and grieving for your old life. You’ll go through the same grieving stages, and you need to give yourself permission to grieve. In doing so, you’ll begin the process of transforming from your old life to creating your new one. Also, what’s very important is that you don’t have to do anything on your own. When you see that you’re unable to progress in your grieving, please ask for help from family, friends, or a professional like myself.

The five stages of grieving

The Grief Model, developed by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in the late 1960s, comprises of five stages. They can be summarised using the acronym DABDA.

Denial: This is the first stage where you’re in utter shock, disbelief, and denial about the impact the pandemic will have on your life. You feel numb by what’s happening around you, and cannot comprehend its gravitas. You feel like you’re watching a bizarre science- fiction movie. Your body and mind are in shock, and you shift into survival mode, only taking in as much information as you can comprehend. Life feels empty, meaningless, and hopeless.

Anger: Once denial wears off, anger sets in. All too often we struggle with anger as an emotion, because we believe that it’s not socially acceptable. Remember that in this instance, it has its right place. Give it room to unfold, and feel it in your inner being. You’ll become angry at the injustice of life, the pandemic, and, if you’re religious, even at God. The anger is about why this has happened to you and your loved ones, making your life unfair. Don’t bottle it up! Give yourself permission to feel it, process it, and then release it. It will feel like an intense muscle cramp: it hurts, it’s debilitating, and it makes you draw in your breath from the pain. Exhale slowly, breathe, and relax into the anger until it slowly begins to become less tense, and the muscle cramp starts to ease. Processing your anger is a very critical stage to work through, and one you can easily get stuck in.

Bargaining: This is the start of your transformation and creative process. It’s like seeing the light at the end of tunnel. You’ll become resourceful, hopeful, creative, and will be optimistic that bit by bit you can claim back some old parts of yourself and your old life.

Depression: After having experienced the bargaining stage, you may think that the depression stage is going a step backward, but in actual fact it isn’t. It’s about learning to surrender what you can’t control, and putting all your energy and focus into what you do have control over. There will be days where you become withdrawn and slump into a depressed mood, and this will be the preamble to surrendering to your new life. You may be quite negative, feel sad, low, and lonely, and can even lose your zest for life. You could even begin to wonder if you’ll ever be happy again, and have the quality of life you had before the pandemic. What’s very important in this stage is to surround yourself with people who care about you, and to set small daily goals to keep working on.

Acceptance: The fifth stage is to surrender and accept. It’s the key to your freedom and transformation. Acceptance means you’ve come to embrace your new reality, but it doesn’t mean you approve of it. You’ll start to understand that this is the new norm by which you’re going to live, and will begin to adjust accordingly. You’ll re-organise your roles and responsibilities, and will bring in different structures, methods, routines, and ways of doing things. You’ll do your best to establish meaning and purpose in new activities and tasks, and will accept that you’ll never replace the old with the new. When you realise that it’s time to create something totally new, you’ll nd that this is where the power of transformation happens.

Give yourself permission to grieve. It’s very necessary and will serve you to move through the challenges of COVID-19. Accept that you won’t ever return to your old life – and savour that – but equally you’ll look forward and take steps to creating a new meaningful life. Use all the support you can get to assist you during this transformational time.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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