A few weeks ago, Harvard Business Review published an article titled The Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief and as I read it, I immediately wanted to share it with everyone I knew. David Kessler, an expert on grief, discussed with the author his perspective on the current coronavirus crisis and how what we are really collectively feeling is grief. He elaborated on the idea of multiple kinds of grief that we are experiencing.
Anticipatory grief is the feeling experienced when we are uncertain about the future, especially in regards to the potential deaths of people around us. Like when we know there’s a storm coming, or we are in a storm and don’t know the outcome, we experience anticipatory grief because we start to imagine what will happen and feel for that imagined time even if it isn’t sure. This confusion and uncertainty brings with it a loss of safety individually but also as a team, focus area, firm and even society.
Kessler continues to explain how to manage grief through the stages outlined in his books: “There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally, there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.” He also explains how all of these come at different times and aren’t necessarily linear.
I would imagine we have all been in each of these stages at different points over the last few weeks, I know my tendency is towards bargaining and denial most of the time, and it’s important for all of us to identify where we are in this process and whether or not we are moving through all of them or if we are getting stuck in a single phase.
After thinking through this article and listening to the excellent webinar from HORNE’s Full Potential Team, I have taken some time to think through the significance of taking the time to name our emotions and identify what we are dealing with during this pandemic. It’s more than fear and anxiety (though we certainly feel those), it’s also a deep grief for what we have currently lost and how we, both individually and as a society, will never be the same. It’s an adjustment that we were not prepared for and continually have to readjust to work through.
I will not claim to know how to adjust properly, but I’ve learned a few things through this article, the HORNE webinar, and my experience in learning about emotional intelligence and working with teams that I thought could be helpful.
First, be intentional to identify what you’re feeling and, especially if you’re feeling grief (because you probably are), where you are in the stages mentioned above.
This can be done through a conversation with a trusted friend, a coach/mentor, or family member or through writing it out on paper to, in a way, begin to manage those thoughts and feelings. This is very important, not just for you but for those around you. I say this because we are all operating at a new level of personal stress that is requiring more of our energy than we are used to, and that is taking away from what would normally go to our interactions with one another.
I know I owe it to myself and my team to take some time to figure out what I’m feeling and begin to take steps in managing those feelings so I can serve them better and have more intentional emotional availability for them, without my stress, grief and sadness getting in my way. And, with many of us working from home right now we have the advantage of being able to step away if needed and process emotions as they come in a safe place. I’ve found it helpful to be able to make space to handle what is going on in my life and establish good habits now that I can take back with me to the office when this ends (because we have to remember, it will end).”
Second, allow yourself to enjoy the change in pace around you while adjusting to this new way of life.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen an overwhelming number of “how-to” articles and videos to help with the working remotely adjustment and handling the current crisis (not to mention this one) and sometimes it can feel like you should be moving at the same pace as before. I think there’s a beauty to the fact that we’ve been forced to pause so many areas of our lives and create a new pace, while still being productive and serving our teams and clients with the same level of urgency and care as ever before (if not more). I firmly believe that in order to do that, it’s critical to embrace this new pace and own whatever that looks like for you.
Finally, have some time every day to take a break from the noise around you.
Between news on the TV, social media, articles, work, and many other distractions, it can become discouraging. My personal recommendation is to take an allotted amount of time every day to turn it all off and spend time with your family, roommates, friends, or alone, and rest in the fact that this is temporary and we still have one another. I always find time in prayer and solitude peaceful and restoring, especially when there is this much fear, anxiety, grief and unknown in the air. Whatever it looks like for you, take time to remember what you do know and what you can be grateful for, even now.
Hopefully, this was helpful and if nothing else, I have no doubt the Harvard Business Review article will be enlightening during this time. Stay safe and healthy, my friends.
About the Author
Megan Hudson is a former intern whose experience at HORNE changed her mind about what it means to work at a regional firm. As a cyber risk manager for HORNE Cyber, she specializes in IT assurance and risk services.