The pandemic stages we’ve gone through thus far remind me of the five phases of the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. All five of these can easily be applied to our collective and personal handling of the pandemic of 2020.
First, in March when we learned of this terrible virus. People didn’t quite know what to do (and not do!). DENIAL chain reactions… scratching our heads at the sight of empty shelves in grocery stores (toilet paper out, really?!). We never really thought that this virus could & would derail our travel plans for summer or fall as it did.
Not surprisingly, denial led to ANGER, with people equating facial covering with personal freedom and deliberately, angrily choosing not to wear a mask.
With the warm summer months came BARGAINING with the virus… “Surely, we surmised, if we party outdoors in our own backyards with our friends and family, then we’re safe!… And no need to wear a mask all the time with our friends!” Other people went for another form of bargaining as they tested the herd immunity principle by partying wherever and whenever they could. Coronavirus parties, gatherings with the alleged intention of catching COVID-19 actually became a ‘thing’! Then came Thanksgiving… and Christmas… with millions of Americans traveling.
Naturally next in line, the DEPRESSION phase. And let’s face it, there is much to be depressed. As of today—319,000 Americans and close to 15,000 Canadians have lost their lives since the beginning of March. My heart goes out to the thousands of people who lost their businesses, jobs, career opportunities, and much more. Compared to these tragic life experiences, my own tale of woe amounts to a hill of beans.
As for ACCEPTANCE, the last phase of the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle, it will come – perhaps it’s already begun thanks to the hope garnered around approved vaccines and their early efficacy. But we have to get through these winter months first.
Our own “life under Covid” experience
During our limited travels from June through December, we pretty much went through the same grieving phases, adding a thick layer of climate change into the mix. As dangerous COVID-19 has been since March, our own summer in the scorching heat of first, Los Angeles, then Northern California and Southern Oregon, followed by fast proliferation of wildfires on the West Coast through September, demonstrate to me the immense danger that climate change holds over just about everything else, even a pandemic.
We were fortunate in that we managed to stay out of immediate danger. We had some ‘close calls’ if you can call it that… the terrible Almeda Fire started to rapidly burn through the outskirts of Medford, OR, a mere 10 days after we left the area for the Oregon Coast. Though we were far enough away from immediate danger, breathing the unhealthy smoke and ash-laden air didn’t do our lungs any good!
Both climate change and Covid-19 have brutally elbowed their way into our lives like never before… By October, we were thrilled to report back to Catalina RV Resort, close to Palm Springs in Southern Cal, our home base in the Coachella Valley, where my winter season gig as Director of Activities awaited.
However… the virus caught up with me. On November 15, I tested positive for COVID-19. Mark followed suit almost immediately after. We were extremely fortunate to have suffered only flu-like symptoms, with no fever or difficulty breathing. That said, our ‘other’ symptoms weren’t a barrel of fun to go through either!… Nearly 4 weeks post-COVID, while more or less symptom-free, fatigue still lingers.
But wait a minute…
Isn’t this the Season of Joy?!!!
Well yes, but… joy has many contexts and we’re having to adapt this year. Btw, ‘adapt‘ ought to be right up there with ‘pandemic‘ among the words of 2020! In a way, the Christmas Season has always been about those we can’t be with–because of death, because of distance, because of a family feud or simply because of work obligations. Holiday 2020 has simply magnified this reality.
So there will be more ‘absent’ people than ‘present’ at our tables this Christmas Holiday. For some, there won’t be anyone at all. It’s very sad… But let’s own this feeling for a moment and ACCEPT it (the last stage of grief, remember?). We’ll simply have a Merry Quiet Christmas and a Quiet New Year. If that what it takes to end this annus horribilis, let’s do it! The BIG difference for me… Nine months of confinement had made me realize the value of everyone in my life… wherever they are. It’s been too easy to forget that the most beautiful gift is the one that keep us together… that the ‘essential’ is not what’s inside the box, but in the hands of the person who’s handing me that box!
So it boils down to this my friends: us NOT being able to be together in person is this year’s ultimate Christmas gift—so we can all be together next year. Or sooner. So very soon I hope… For this bright future to happen, we need patienceand we need the vaccine… the former is readily accessible, the latter is on its way to us.
From the bottom of our hearts, wishing you the most comfortable ‘stay-at-home’ Christmas… Stay safe! This too shall pass.