“Covid-19: Depressed and Angry While Sheltering in PIace? You May Be Grieving Loss…”

Most of us are experiencing some type of loss during this time of the coronavirus.

If we can experience the feelings associated with loss, we can grieve and emerge

with peaceful acceptance.

If we suppress our feelings, we might withdraw into depression

or discharge in anger.

The losses during covid-19 can include tragic loss of life and…

  • loss of health and strength when you or others are sick
  • loss of being able to be with loved ones when they are sick or dying  
  • loss of being able to gather together physically with others when mourning the death of loved ones
  • loss of job, income, and the ability to provide for yourself and your family
  • loss of identity, if you lose your job and you view your work as defining who you are
  • loss of being able to keep your small business open and pay your employees
  • loss of autonomy, particularly freedom of movement outside your home
  • loss of human touch: being able to touch each other, hug, and kiss
  • loss of physical connection: being able to stand/walk close to each other or talk face-to-face
  • Loss of physical contact with your full social circle, as you limit your social circle to reduce risk
  • Loss of being able to celebrate developmental milestones in person, such as births, birthdays, graduations, weddings and retirement parties
  • Loss of a sense of relative safety in your workplace, if you can’t work from home (medical personnel, grocery workers, postal workers, delivery workers,  police, firefighters, and others)
  • Loss of childcare… having to be responsible for your children’s education each day and for providing child care during the hours your children used to be in school and in after-school programs.

A useful construct to describe a process for dealing with loss is from Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s work on death and dying.* The Kubler-Ross model, sometimes referred to by the acronym DABDA, includes stages of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Her work was originally intended to describe the psychological stages people might go through when they are dying. However, the stages can be applied to any of the losses described above.

The grieving process doesn’t necessarily occur in the order of D-A-B-D-A and the person grieving can go back and forth between stages:

Denial: “This isn’t happening.”

Anger: Anger is often at specific people, leaders or governments. “Who did this?” “Why is this happening to me?!” If a loved one has died, anger might even be felt toward them, “Why did you leave me?”

Bargaining about the past: “if I had done ‘x,’ this wouldn’t be happening.” “If they (the person who died) hadn’t done ‘’y,” this wouldn’t be happening.”  For instance, “If Sammy hadn’t gone to work last week, he wouldn’t have gotten the virus.”

Bargaining about the future:  (to God or the universe)“If you let Sammy recover, I promise to attend church every Sunday.”

Bargaining is an attempt to reverse or postpone reality.  It also helps you adjust gradually to loss, by letting hope back in. 

Depression: You can experience sadness with crying or deep sobbing. It can come when you least expect it, especially when there has been a sudden or unexpected loss.  You can be walking across a room when you are hit with a wave of grief.  You grab your stomach, double over, and sob.  You feel the need to grab the wall or sit down, holding yourself.    

There can also be depression, a numbing of the senses. “I don’t feel like doing anything or seeing anyone.” “I don’t find pleasure in anything.”  There can be a loss of appetite or overeating. There can be difficulty sleeping or you might stay in bed and sleep a lot.  There can be temporary confusion or slowing of movement, not knowing what to say or do next. Sometimes, lurking under the cover of depression, there can be feelings of guilt, shame, or anger turned inward.

Acceptance: Loss comes to be seen from new perspectives. There can be a sense of calm and a belief that things will eventually get better.  The deepest pain of loss is seen as temporary.  Passion for life and compassion for yourself return.

During any stage of grieving the losses described in the list above, it helps to seek the comfort of good people: religious leaders/ groups, community organizations, philosophical societies, family, and friends. If a loved one has died, the survivors may find solace and guidance in grief support groups, facilitated by therapists.  Grief support groups can give you the chance to be with other people going through the grieving process.  You may be able to find grief support groups in Los Angeles at TheGroupList.com and gpala.org (Group Psychotherapy Association of Los Angeles). 

During the grieving process, if depression, anxiety, or other feelings become overwhelming or complicated, it may help to consult with licensed mental health professionals for individual psychotherapy. 

Your insurance company may cover individual counseling and grief support groups. They may have 24/7 helplines to assist you in accessing their services. During the time of the coronavirus, if you cannot access individual therapy or grief support groups in person, there may be online formats.

Disclaimer and References: DABDA is not the only model for grieving. Other models will be described in future blogs. The DABDA model is a useful construct and there may be varying opinions about the empirical evidence supporting it (see Wikipedia). I also added my own points and description to the DABDA process described above.  For further information on the original version of DABDA, see the book “On Death and Dying,” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D.

The highest standards of confidentiality will be maintained in the writing and the posting of these blogs. These blogs are general statements, not observations about any individual person and not directed toward any individual person. The blogs about coping during the era of Covid-19 are posted on my website to help my clients cope during this traumatic time.

A blog is not a substitute for direct treatment of mental and physical health issues.  It is merely an opinion which may prompt you to attend to symptoms with licensed mental health and physical health professionals.  It is based on my current experience doing telehealth video/phone counseling and my past years of experience doing counseling in my Los Angeles offices.

For more information on the author of this blog, Mike Fatula, MS, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (#15257), please visit his website at mikefatulatherapy.com.