Seven Stages Of Lockdown: Grief, Anger and Mixed Messages
People talk about the stages of grief, but what about the stages of lockdown? How should we feel? Who should we be listening to? Where’s the truth?
WE often hear about the stages of grief:
Shock and denial.
Pain and guilt.
Anger and bargaining.
The upward turn.
Reconstruction and working through.
Acceptance and hope.
But what about the stages of lockdown? Could we apply the same principles?
Stage 1: Shock and Denial
Shock for sure. Denial? Never. Maybe I’ve read too many dystopian novels and overloaded on disaster movies, but this was always going to happen, wasn’t it?
Whether you believe it’s one big master plan by the one per cent to cut the population and reap the profits for themselves or you think our globe-trotting lifestyle, combined with the natural behaviour of viruses to spread and mutate, led to this moment, it doesn’t matter.
Wherever you sit on the theory train, when news first broke of Covid-19 and we faced a daily barrage of negative headlines (not much changed there), you could feel the shock in the air. That’s on the rare occasions when we felt brave enough to take the air.
It was like an invisible enemy stalking us. Just a few silent steps behind our every move.
Anyone else have that moment early on when, even standing in your own garden, thoughts turned to the dangers of this airborne invader? Just how safe was it to be outside if the wind was blowing. No? Just me then.
As for denial. It didn’t figure, not even in the very early days. Over the years I’ve become a denial expert, whether over my sexuality, my first marriage or that job that just wasn’t me. I was damned if I was going to be in denial over this mofo.
It’s been a denial free zone. It could be something to do with my journalistic brain. I did a lot of research, from many sources. I still do. Although now the waters seem so much muddier, it’s like wading through the shittiest, darkest, foulest sewerage ever to invade your nostrils.
Stage 2: Pain and Guilt
Emotional pain. Plenty. Reading stories of our incredible NHS workers, putting their own lives in danger to save others, due to an inexcusable lack of PPE or poor quality protection. Other accounts of people facing their last hours on earth, unable to be supported by loved ones.
I still remember listening to someone speak of their agony as they were told their relative had died and that their body had been taken to a ‘Covid Corpse Hub’. And they hadn’t even died of Covid.
Who on earth came up with these three little, but brutal, words? Using this kind of language with a grieving relative, leaves no room for sensitivity or compassion.
In this case the parents were offered a viewing. Behind a screen. No chance for one last touch — no gentle caress of a cheek, a kiss with the softest and most loving words spoken. Pain. It’s not a big enough word to carry the weight of this. Ever. We must never forget these moments.
It may not have been my pain. But it’s our pain. Our collective pain, isn’t it? Surely.
Guilt Laden Memories
And here comes the guilt. The next stage.
Guilt around wondering whether all those business trips, evenings out to the theatre, the cinema, a restaurant, my local supermarket, where I may have unknowingly been a carrier for this bastard of a virus. Just one handshake, the briefest of touches could have been all that was needed for it to find a new host. Worse. I’m a hugger. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve hugged.
I’ve hugged in business meetings, at airports and railway stations. I’ve even hugged on street corners with a handmade sign offering ‘Free Hugs’. What an incredibly moving and empowering thing to do that is. One day, when this is all over, I’d recommend you try it for a slice of gratitude and perspective. It’s a real game changer and great for your mental health.
But that’s for another day. In the early days of this pandemic and now, there is so much guilt. Personal guilt and collective. Guilt for walking around, fit and healthy, while thousands of the elderly have been left to die in care homes up and down the country to the horror of their frustrated, overworked and under-appreciated, under-protected carers.
I hope and pray a big part of this collective guilt is shared by our political leaders, the ones in ‘Government’ voted for by the people whose duty is to step up to the plate in moments like this, to provide support for those most in need. But I have my doubts. So many doubts.
And that leads onto the next stage. Anger. There’s plenty of that now, but not so much in those early days.
I think we were all too numb to allow that emotion to break through. It came later. When the divide in our already divided nation, post Brexit, began to widen and deepen.
When the day to day barrage of negative headlines, posed far more questions than answers.
When the body count, accurate or not, ramped up.
We were (and still are) angry at the politicians, big sections of the media, and rightly so.
But now that anger seems to be spilling over into relationships with our friends and neighbours. Even into our TV screens when yet another presenter, with their professionally plastered on smile, throws another opinion into the ring. And that’s it, isn’t it? EveryONE in the media is expected to have an opinion these days. Whatever happened to old fashioned, impartial media, intent on delivering the facts and treating their viewers/listeners/readers with respect by allowing them to make up their own minds?
Reporters delivering balanced, fair reporting. Only expressing an opinion if they’re doing an opinion piece. When did journalistic impartiality disappear? Impartial reporting does exist but these days it’s rarer than rocking horse shit. You have to dig really, really deep for it. Now that makes me angry and sad.
Imagine. A world where fair, accurate, balanced news was presented to you with all sides of the argument so you could make up your own mind. Form your own opinion, not clutch at a version of somebody else’s views and repeat it parrot fashion.
Bravo Or Boos For Boris
Then we have those in the Boris camp and those that are not. Those that believe that cheeky chappie with his Eton foppishness is alright really. Those that say we should be following health guidelines to the letter, others questioning the leadership, guidance and figures being quoted. And that’s without even factoring in the ‘Covid deniers’ and conspiracy theorists.
It’s no surprise there’s so much anger out there. It’s like one big melting pot of viewpoints, vying for space, like a swarm of angry wasps imprisoned in a jar, looking to get in the first sting, with some turning into human stinging machines. Attacking time and time again until they find a bargaining chip. A chink in the armour of the ‘opposition’ where they can exploit it. Horrible.
Depression. My old familiar. Maybe a little too over familiar, although it took me years to recognise it and even longer to accept and talk about it.
Even the most upbeat, positive people are being tested right now, so goodness knows how those who were already struggling with the big D before Covid, are managing to get through each day. First we’re in lockdown, then we’re not in lockdown, then we have tiers of lockdown depending on where we live. It’s lottery lockdown…with no winners, although possibly a few more political millionaires in the making.
I’m reminded of the wobble I had on holiday at an airport. A mini meltdown because, in a public eatery, I couldn’t get a seat in the fast food restaurant I had ordered from and had to sit just outside. Would I be marshalled off the premises as I’d dared to take off my mask to tuck into my vegan burger in an undesignated eating area? What if someone coughed on my quarter pounder or I accidentally coughed on them? What if that stern, uniform wearing woman was ready to fine me on the spot?
Easy to fall into stress overload when you’re shovelling your evening meal down in record time before retreating back into your face covering.
What’s The True Cost Of Covid?
What are the rules, what can we do, what can’t we do? So much confusion. If that’s not an attack on our mental health then I don’t know what is. And this is only the start of it. Depression often has a delay, a time lag, and this pandemic is the perfect storm. It takes time to bed in but when it does, its effects are massive.
The full cost of 2020, in terms of our mental and physical health, will be something our future historians and medics will talk about for years to come. And yes, the big D has been nipping at my heels again too, even though my inner introvert is happy to stay home and watch the masked world go by.
When we’re talking about grief, we would be looking for the upward turn next.
Have we reached it?
And here the enquiring journalist in me is screaming “Find Out!”
Listen to the mainstream press, the politicians shouting the loudest and it would undoubtedly be a loud, ‘No’.
Don’t be silly, the second wave is coming and the NHS is about to fall over. It can’t cope. We can’t cope. The virus is coming again, the big, bad is back and scarier than ever.
And yes, it is scary. It’s the sort of thing that can keep you awake at night. It has me. And pre-Covid I was proud of my sleep-ability, able to sleep through pretty much any crisis. Like a feline. Cats sleep anywhere. Any table, any chair. Well, that was me (sans whiskers and fluffy tail obvs…) until the last few months.
So, upturn? I’m fighting for it. I’m choosing to turn off the mainstream news and do my own research once more.
I’m looking at graphs and reports from many different sources, from medics on the front line, from scientists, and not just those working alongside our political leaders.
People going through their own personal Covid-battles who are fighting back.
I’m giving most politicians and their fear mongering, at times, laughable, hollow soundbites and slogans, a wide berth.
My upturn is hope. Hope that this world, our beautiful country, isn’t going to hell in a handcart. That despite all the scare mongering, the division, the confusion, we’ll find a way to unite and put our differences aside so we can whip Covid-19’s arse together. A United Kingdom once more.
Sounds good, right, if a little cheesy? A soundbite BoJo himself would be proud of.
Now, here’s my problem.
Washing Their Hands
I’ve skipped two stages: Reconstruction and working through and acceptance. Acceptance is supposed to come before hope.
And you see, I don’t accept the shit shambles our so called ‘government’ has created in these past months.
They’ve not only hit us with confusing, conflicting, ‘fancy’ marketing phrases that have about as much substance as a sanitary pad made of grease proof paper, they’ve lied… repeatedly.
Oh, they’ve been washing their hands alright…of their responsibilities… to the youngest, oldest and most vulnerable members of our society.
And what about reconstruction? Another stage of grief and lockdown. I missed that out too.
I’m not feeling the reconstruction vibe, are you?
What are we reconstructing? A health service that is being driven down the privatisation route in all but name. Reconstructed with ‘help’ from Boris’ wealthy chums. Oh, how terribly sweet of them. They count their winnings while the rest of us work on and weep.
Destruction, rather than reconstruction.
All those beautiful, ancient woodlands being uprooted and destroyed to make way for HS2 while we’re distracted by Covid.
Way to go, Boris! ‘Progress’ but at what cost to our environment and our mental and physical health?
Don’t worry, our kids won’t need countryside in the future.
They’ll be more like Fatima. Who needs ballet or the Great Outdoors when you can cyber, eh?
As for working through, this jury’s out. So, I’ll hang onto this stage for now and make up my own mind.
And by the way, are there five or seven stages of grief? So much confusion over numbers.
Remind you of anything?
Maybe we should stop focusing on the numbers being fed to us and pay more attention to the words being spoken, and by whom, instead.
Asha Clearwater is an NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) qualified journalist who’s been a news reporter, features editor and arts editor, as well as editor of several national business magazines.
Today, through her business Turquoise Tiger, she coaches SMEs on the art of great storytelling to promote their products and services.
Asha occasionally freelances as a writer for national magazines and is even behind some of the information boards you’ll find strolling through Woodland Trust Forests.
She is also curator of TEDxPeterborough. www.tedxpeterborough.com