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Sudie Crouch: Maybe we’re grieving and we don’t even know it

Someone commented the other day how change was a natural part of life, and we really needed to accept that fact. 

The context of their comment was pretty general, but I thought how it applied to so many situations, and particularly our current one. 

I understand change is a part of life — truly, I do. 

Just because change happens, doesn’t mean we like it and it doesn’t mean it isn’t painful. 

If anything, change can be a traumatic experience and cause us to grieve. 

Just within the last month or so, we’ve had tremendous changes roll out — things that once were considered mainstays among our cultural traditions have been cancelled, postponed, or moved to a virtual setting. It’s great that we have that option, but it’s still a huge change and doesn’t allow us to take part in the rituals that have comforted us and helped lift us up for so long.

Graduations — cancelled, or being held virtually, minus the pomp and circumstance.

Funerals — memorial services to be held at a later date. 

Weddings — smaller ceremonies with just the immediate family, bride, groom and the officiant. 

So many milestones and markers of life have been put on pause for the time being. 

Some of those circumstances are joyful changes but can be frightening nonetheless. 

A common thread in all of those is people and our connection and interaction with them. How we collectively come together over these moments of great change. 

I’ve long been fascinated by Kubler Ross’ stages of grief mainly because they are so true, and because grief isn’t just applied to our physical death, but for other losses as well. It’s not linear either — we go back and forth between the first four stages quite a bit before we end up at acceptance, and even then, we sometimes revisit anger and depression. 

It was just a month or so ago, we began with the stage of denial, where we didn’t want to believe this pandemic was as big of a threat as it was. Surely, it was just a new flu. Right? What happened in other countries couldn’t happen here? 

Then, we saw the death tolls rise. 

We hung out in denial for a bit. That was just in one state — it couldn’t happen here.

We continued to languish in denial for a while, sometimes thinking we knew better than scientists and medical professionals. 

We searched for things that supported our cognitive bias so we could continue living the way we wanted to, as long as we wanted.

And then we moved into anger. 

Oh, anger is an emotion I wrangle with — it’s my default emotion, to be honest. And this encounter was no different. 

Some were angry they were told to stay home — so they rebelled and went places anyway. 

Some were angry those people didn’t follow the orders. That would be me. 

I have always been a big “follow the rules” girl, to the point in school, teachers didn’t have to appoint a room monitor if they had to step out for a second. They knew my legalistic nature would tell any offender they were out of line before they could return. 

Seeing cars from other counties, states even, has infuriated me. 

Why are they here spreading this virus? Don’t they know they can be asymptomatic and spread it? 

I emailed and called everyone I thought had some semblance of authority to do something and my efforts were in vain. 

I stayed in anger for a while, and I revisit it depending on the stage. 

Concurrent with the anger, we entered bargaining. 

Could we go out if we sat in our cars six feet away? 

Surely it would be OK if we hiked, even if it was crowded, because we were outside. 

In between these stages, we moved into depression. 

We weren’t sure if we would ever live a life free of self-isolation and social distancing. 

We missed hugging our friends and going to see family. 

We felt a heavy burden in our soul, and we weren’t even sure how to quantify it — we only knew it was massive, as if it had only just begun and we weren’t sure how it would end. 

We’re waiting, largely, for the acceptance stage. The final phase where we know we will be OK. We’re waiting. And wondering if we will get there. 

I’ve been wrangling through each of these phases, sometimes, all in one day. All but the acceptance. 

I miss being able to go to the store free of fear and being able to go to a different one without any thought if something wasn’t available or just to see what’s on sale. While I’m missing that freedom, there’re people in other states waiting 18 hours just to see if they can shop. 

I think of all the plans that have been made to get together for coffee with friends, but we let other things get in the way. I now grieve those missed opportunities to laugh, grow, and lift up those sisters. 

I’m not alone in missing these things. 

We all are grieving our individual changes in our circumstances in this situation, our private losses, our fears.

We just are each at a different stage, depending on what our loss is and how deeply the change has been for us. 

Just like with death, we all grieve differently. 

And just like any grief, we may never truly get over it. 

We just learn to somehow sit with it. 

Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.