As we all do our part and hunker down to "flatten the curve" as best we can, we are entering what will be a temporary, new normal. As we keep informed about what is going on in the world around us with the coronavirus and become aware of the commentary, opinions and actions others take pertaining to this, I wanted to offer additional thoughts and perspective that hopefully helps organize what you learn into areas of understanding. This perspective is a bit zoomed out and I hope you find it helpful.
For those of you who don't know, this is Maslow's hierarchy of needs and describes our needs as individuals from the most basic at the bottom of the triangle, to our most ideal needs at the top.
For those of you who don't know, this is Kubler-Ross's stages of grief. The stages are labeled from left to right and the bullet points describe what each stage is like. I add that the "Dialogue and Bargaining" stage can look like, "I wish..." or "If only..." starts to thoughts, feelings, beliefs or conversations.
Now imagine the two being intertwined and happening at the same time!
What Have We Seen So Far?
Shock and Denial/Physiological Needs/Anger:
When the coronavirus struck the United States, we initially avoided the reality of it. Some of us were in disbelief as we didn't take it seriously until it started to rapidly spread. As the projections were calculated and reported with mortality rates, impact on politics, global power, economy, schools, families, etc. many were naturally confused, fearful and numb. Panic buying and hoarding set in for many as water, food, toilet paper went out the door as fear set in. We were all put in a felt survival state. Depending on your personal experience, anger, disappointment and blame may have set in towards fellow humans and institutions during this time.
Shock and Denial/Anger/Safety Needs:
Hopefully by now, you're feeling safe as life shifted to self-quarantining and working or schooling from home. In the coming days as we look to government and world leaders for aid and response, we might be disappointed in their delivery. Again, this may put us in the shock and denial, or anger stages of grief, as we may feel our safety needs of security, health, employment and resources being met like they were prior to the coronavirus.
Shock and Denial/Anger/Depression and Detachment/Love and Belonging:
This may be most felt in the home. Take inventory of how other family members are doing. Which grief stage are they in? Do they feel like their physiological and safety needs are met? How your family handles conflict and emotion in the coming days will go a long way to if your home promotes love and belonging, and the rest of the hierarchy of needs. But know that initially as of now, you or a loved one might be steeped in anxiety, overwhelm, or lack of motivation and energy.
It's so important to know that if you are feeling these or is happening to someone you love, it's okay to feel these and we shouldn't feel judgmental, judged, guilty or ashamed about this. It's a normal response. We went through a sudden lack of resourcing ability, got kicked into survival mode with unfelt emotional heaviness at the time and were all impacted in various ways. Now that you're safe you have a minute to process what happened. Your mind, body and emotions need time to stop and feel the weight of to catch up with its sense of self and being. This process needs to be honored and supported. Love and belonging help aid this painful process to go faster into healing and improved self-esteem. More on love and belonging later...
What Might This Look Like Going Forward?
Esteem/Dialogue and Bargaining:
Some of us have witnessed this already. You may have seen footage of Italians singing to each other during quarantine, or you may have had conversations with others to process this, or you or others have reached out and served to meet other people's needs. Be mindful of thoughts, feelings, beliefs and conversations having the flavor or "If only" or "I wish." This will include that as we watch our leaders decide what to do in the coming days. They may disappoint us and we may respond in anger or sadness and be thinking "If only" or "I wish." Know that this is a grief response to leadership. It is also worth noting that we may sometimes go back to another stage of grief or need as well. That's okay. Keep going.
Dialogue and Bargaining also has a second half to this stage as it moves towards the acceptance stage. This can start to look like plans and options are being explored, and what the new normal can look like is taking shape. Potentially esteem needs can start to flourish as this process takes shape. Take the time to foster this need to encourage growth, character development and create a great foundation into acceptance and self-actualization.
We will get there. The coronavirus will pass. The world will figuratively speaking come back online and it may look dramatically different in the subsequent months and years. We shall see what is in store. More on this in just a bit...
Lastly, Vicarious Trauma
It is so important to note that as we collectively and individually go into self-care and quarantine, that we must monitor vicarious trauma. Vicarious trauma is emotional or physical fatigue from taking care of others without having adequate time to take care of yourself and refuel.
This might look like the above, as well as behavioral, physiological, cognitive and spiritual symptoms that have themes of isolation, hopelessness, burnout, negativity, headaches, unpleasant heart or digestive sensations. The more support and resources you can have in the midst of needs and grief, the less vicarious trauma can happen.
Where are you personally in all of this? What do you notice coming up for you? Take the time to self-evaluate and name what's going on for you. It's a great process in self-care as it will give you a baseline of where you're at and where you can go.
You probably already are aware of a plethora of commentary about the coronavirus or are aware of how you and others are responding and being impacted. But again, take the time to filter what you're aware of from this, through grief and needs. How are they responding from and to those needs? Take the time to be aware of your response to them and how you might also be responding from your own grief or needs. This will include the leaders whom you look to in your life, and the ones who look to you to lead as well in the coming days.
How might coronavirus media consumption be creating vicarious trauma for you? It may be important to limit it to getting what you need factually and get off when reading commentary and responses. If you choose to entertain the rabbit hole that this can become, be aware of how it may be triggering your sense of needs and grief, or creating vicarious trauma symptoms.
We need to accept that the coronavirus cost all of us and we are all in the spectrum of needs and grief. We also will need to accept that we will make it through. As we continue to find ways to control the coronavirus, we can also take steps towards control individually and collectively. We all have a choice. In light of the above information, we're in this together and in a bizarre way, we all are belonging here. Take the time to get resources for you, whether that's neighbors, family, therapists, doctors, financial advisors, whomever you need to keep going and make it through. But, know that we also have the choice to step into acceptance, self-actualization, and love and belonging.
The coronavirus is historic. History is already telling us that our response to the coronavirus was to hoard and fight over toilet paper. We can do better. We will also have another historic moment coming right after where generations that follow us will see if and how we chose to love vastly and serve greatly. We have the choice to seek understanding, offer patience and compassion. We have the opportunity to be open minded and creative in ways we never have been. We have the opportunity to stretch our perspectives. Know that the opportunity to act is now.
Let's change that toilet paper narrative. The impact of the coronavirus is vast, but how we love and serve can be more vast and far greaer. Invest generously. There are already people in need. You and I can contribute now. Let's do it together.