Stages of Grief and Covid-19

Suppose you come home one day, and the water is overflowing from your kitchen sink. Instead of turning off the water, you say:

1. I refuse to believe that's water. (And do nothing.)

2. I wonder who turned the water on? Wait until I get my hands on the person who did this. (And do nothing.)
3. I would call the plumber, but he's an idiot, and I'm not listening to him. He needs to listen to me for a change. (And do nothing.)
4. My floor is flooded. It'll never be the same. (And do nothing.)
5. The water came on by itself and may continue coming on when I am not looking. I'll do my part by turning it off and calling the plumber. (Yay! You are taking action.)

I could go on, but you get the drift and probably recognize I am comparing this to responses about Covid-19. The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. People process grief in different ways and at different rates, and we must be patient with people. However, by recognizing what we are doing, perhaps we can get through these, so that we can, at least, come to an acceptance. 

So, briefly, these have been our responses (and this is not an exhaustive list of all our various responses, but I believe it covers the most common).

1. We pretend that Covid-19 does not exist, that it's a conspiracy theory, or that it's nothing more than the common cold. If we were to accept such a radical change in our environment, it would be disconcerting, to say the least. Folks are grieving for a past we may never recapture and refuse to believe Covid-19 is real.

Some people are still stuck at the first stage of grief. The problem is that we cannot move forward until we become unstuck. By now, most of us are aware of friends or family who have or have had this disease and, unfortunately, know people who have died. It's time we pulled our heads out of the sand...err... got our heads above the water, and admitted this is a serious illness. (There's no need to debate how serious--we need only agree it is serious so that we can move forward.)

2. We become angry at the wrong things--where the virus originated from, for example. Perhaps this is something we will want to investigate in the future, but for now, we must deal with the consequences. 

Other people direct anger toward state mandates--such as social distancing and the wearing of masks. Some refuse to listen to the experts and even attack their credentials. 

Many are stuck in their anger and refuse to move forward. Yes, this has disrupted our lives, our economy, the lives of our children, and our normal routines (and the list goes on and on). 

Let's be understanding of this--Covid-19 is a new disease, and scientists are scrambling to find out as much as possible. Our anger is misplaced or, at least, is being directed to folks at the wrong time.

By this time, doctors have accumulated much knowledge. They know the virus is airborne. Because of this, they know masks and social distancing help prevent the spread (note, I said help, not entirely prevent). 

Anger rarely helps a situation, and in most cases, contributes to chaos. Heed the words of Paul: 

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. ~Ephesians 4:31.

3. We try to turn this into "you do something" and then "I'll do something." When the economy reopens, then I will cooperate, for example. Or, listen to me. I know more than you do.

Our government officials are dealing with something they have never dealt with before, and they have and will make mistakes, but that does not mean we know more than they do.

We have very few previous scenarios to compare this to, and we can say until the cows come home that not re-opening schools is a mistake or, on the other hand, schools must be re-opened. We all know of the blind men who did not know what an elephant was. One felt the trunk, one the leg, etc. Depending on your perspective, each of us will come up with different answers on how we deal with this. Does the mental health of children, the need for socialization, out trump the possibility some will become sick, some will carry the disease home to grandparents or others? It's a difficult question with no easy answers.

And let's keep that in mind. Officials, from the president to the mayors of our towns, have to make difficult decisions with little precedence. Here's something to consider--they have more access to information than we do and more experts weighing in on their decisions. 

Consider Philippians 2:3:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (ESV)

Let's take stock of ourselves--are we scientists, doctors, health care workers, psychiatrists, pediatricians? Do we know more than the experts? 

If not, and if we are indeed Christians, let's realize the difficult time these people are having. Let's not disparage the experts unless we ourselves are experts (and even then, we must be careful!). 

4. And then many of us have entered this phase--depression. We feel hopeless and see no end in sight. How can we overcome this?

According to Eric Barker, we can be happier by doing these things:

a. Learn a lesson about gratitude: Forget your Dodge Dart. Be happy that it is wrapped around a telephone pole and you are not.

b. Learn a lesson about savoring: Wanting more good stuff all the time is a trap. Take a moment to deliberately appreciate what you have in the moment.

c. Learn a lesson about health: Be a conductor, not a driver.

d. Learn a lesson about relationships: Who did you miss? Schedule something with them right now (maintaining social distancing) before you get distracted and your brain powerwashes everything you just learned out of your head.

Read more on his blog, 4 Rituals To Keep You Happy All The Time (Pandemic Edition).

5. So, if we can navigate our way through the stages of grief, we can make it to the other side. We can accept that Covid-19 is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. We must be willing to adapt our behavior to make this easier, not just on ourselves, but on others around us. Going back to Philippians, we read in verse 4:

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

You may still believe Covid-19 is hyped up. You may still believe it was brought here to destroy America. You may still believe you know more than the experts. You may still believe this will never end. 

However, please consider Paul's words seriously and think of others. 

Here's a question--If I knew that wearing a mask and maintaining a social distance of 6 to 12 feet would prevent ONE PERSON from getting seriously ill, would I be willing to do it? Even if I hated wearing masks. Even if I wanted to hug my friends. Even if I wanted to celebrate an event. 

My answer is YesI am willing to sacrifice personal comfort in the hopes of preventing one other person from becoming ill.

Put on your mask. Maintain social distancing. It's a small way to say I love you.

At a distance. 

All pictures courtesy of

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