Post by the Husband
Even if you haven’t lost anyone to this virus, all of us, to some extent are grieving…
Let’s face it, all of us have lost many things.
The classic Kluber-Ross model of grief covers the basic emotions of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
If you were like me, I was in denial when the news first broke. I didn’t really want to believe that a virus could change our lives in our country in any significant way. Although us NBA fans were laughing at the way Rudy Gobert acted (touching the microphones in jest when he himself unknowingly actually had COVID-19), in all honesty, many of us had his attitude not too long ago. Even the way many governments have handled this pandemic started off with denial. Prime Minister Scott Morrison wanted to go the rugby, Donald Trump shrugged it off, Boris Johnson was still shaking hands.
After a period of denial, it is natural to feel anger regarding the losses that you have sustained. It is clear that there has been anger in the community. Much of it is displaced of course with classic scapegoating with some racial intolerance in pockets of society, and talks of countries having dodgy data, or anger towards organisations for not having acted quickly enough.
Sure – there may be some justified anger with some authorities for certain aspects of the handling of the pandemic, however ultimately, the anger we have is actually about the fact that there is a virus that is killing innocent people.
The problem is that it doesn’t make else to be angry with RNA (which is essentially all the virus is!). Coronavirus isn’t even a living thing to be angry with. At least a bacteria is alive and we could wish it dead! So it can be frustrating in this phase for many of us as we don’t even know who or what we are angry towards.
It’s normal to feel angry – just to don’t get angry with object. We should be angry with this virus for affecting the world, but don’t take it out on your family, your colleagues or the police.
To have some sense of control, many of us are trying to limit the effects of this virus upon our lives. This is can be a good thing to do of course.
We work from home, adjust our budgets, take the kids out of school. We clean our surfaces, wash hands over and over again, all in the attempt to “bargain” our way out of this mess. Many of these activities may be reasonable and good to do, however, it also possible to misplace our energies in our desire to “fix” this situation.
A classic example of this is the panic buying that has occurred all across the world. Toilet paper, pasta, rice, canned goods – have all disappeared from supermarkets all across the world. It is a desperate attempt from many people to attempt to protect themselves. Of course much of this is completely futile and in fact creating a problem in itself.
At the macro level – The business world is negotiating with the government, the Government negotiates with the people, journalists negotiate with the politicians. There is indeed a lot of “wheeling and dealing” going on in societies all around the world. We are in effect bargaining to limit the losses will ultimately experience. We are giving some things up to gain others. We give up freedoms now so that we can save lives.
In essence there is this innate desire to “plead” with someone – anyone – “please – this can’t be true – let this virus not cause so much damage to us!”.
As Christians, this desire to want to bargain should be directed towards intercession which is the ultimate spiritual negotiation. As Abraham prayed for Lot, we should pray for our nations. “Lord, spare the people of the world, allow your healing to come, forgive us and heal our Land”.
Furthermore, this is a time when God is teaching us that we are not to try to hold on to the things that make us feel secure – our incomes, our health, our social connections. All that we thought was solid has turned into a mist – as it saves in James 4:14 “You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away”
Once it has sunken in that indeed despite all our bargaining, our incomes will definitely be lower for an unknown period of time, or that we really won’t be seeing our parents any time soon, or that we indeed are going to lose loved ones, it is easy to fall into a state of depression.
This is a feeling of hopelessness where we essentially throw our hands up and say – well – it is what it is, and we can’t do anything about it. It’s then tempting to have become nihilistic.
In the depressed phase, we do not try to do anything to make things better. We cannot see any good in the future to come. We become negative and irritable towards our loved ones.
Again, can be normal to feel like this, but let us not take it out on those around us and let us not fall into a state of inaction. Let us bring our feelings of depression to God in prayer.
Finally – there is a more productive phase where we accept – yes indeed this is a real problem with real losses that have been experienced.
Yet, accepting the losses doesn’t mean giving up. It means that we now know where we stand so that we can move forward.
From a Christian point of view – this acceptance is more than just accepting the fact that viruses will affect humankind, or that we need to work together as a human race to defeat the virus. It is accepting the fact there is a Creator who is all-knowing and all-powerful – and has a plan for us that is good. It is surrendering to the God of the universe and bowing our knee before Him and being worshipful and thankful in this uncertain time. It is accepting that whether we are healthy or sick, whether rich or poor – he remains God. Not just God of the world – but God over me. God over you.
Now for anyone working with grieving people, you will know that the stages of grief hardly ever move in a linear fashion. The pendulum will swing from one feeling state to the next. So you can feel angry, then accept things, then feel depressed, then angry again. But it can be helpful label the emotion you are going through and to be able to share it with others as well as bringing these feelings to God in prayer.