Living well with solitude – the emotional challenge for all of us

We are all living with and through a huge, unbelievable and frankly enormously scary transformational change. How we work our way through change is well-documented via various change curve models.

One thing for sure, is that it is essential that we work through change in the first instance via our emotions and emotional reponses.  Being self-aware, understanding our emotional responses, processing them is important in order that we can then think more clearly, plan and act rationally and steer our way (and others) through and beyond the change itself.

So today, I’m going to concentrate on trying to help us all understand our personal emotional journeys as we go through this massive change.

  • Our journeys will all be different; we will all experience a range of many of the emotions outlined in the picture above, but this list is not exclusive.
  • Our journeys will all be different; our journeys will be at different speeds; some of us will struggle to move through and beyond the stages of denial or of grieving.
  • Our journeys will all be different; they won’t be in a straight line; they’ll be up and down, slip back and do so often.

We will come through.

The Kübler-Ross curve, which is about grief and working through the stages of loss, makes sense in the scenario we are all currently experiencing. We’ve all lost our “normal”, many have lost income, lost jobs, lost social life, lost human contact and many lives will be lost.

(Reference: Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth; Kessler, David (2014). On grief & grieving: finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss. New York: Scribner. ISBN9781476775555. OCLC863077888)

We have all experienced how rapidly we have, as a society and as individuals and families, moved away from stability (normality you may say) into the unknown and scary scenario that is corona virus.  We have done so in literally just a few days. This is a huge challenge emotionally as well as in every other way …………….

Our initial emotional response is shock and denial: surely, this can’t be happening to us? Surely, we can choose to go for a walk in the countryside. Go to the shops? Or the pub? Go see our parents? However, it was in the light of that emotional denial within the population to the seriousness of our predicament, that the Government “requests” for us all to stay at home had to be turned urgently into “legal directives”. There was no time left to allow emotional processing to catch up, since what is at stake here is thousands of people’s lives and the NHS being able to cope and care for us.

I guess we have all experienced and will continue to do so from time to time the paralysis stage? Normally when we face danger and are fearful and scared we can choose to fight the danger or to flee from it; if a dangerous scenario is all too overwhelming for us then sometimes we actually freeze (that’s the paralysis) or fragment (feel we can’t cope, be very tearful, can’t think rationally and so on).

Having worked through our fight or flight or freeze or fragment stage, we progress to anger and hurt. For me anger generated by those who carelessly ignored the Government directives, believed they are invincible and headed to Welsh beaches and tourist spots in their droves as if this was a national holiday! By so doing they just ignored all the data, the warnings and advice and even the knowledge of the building of 4000-bed field hospitals around the UK and much more besides. I know, they were still in denial and shock.

Most of us (thank heavens) have yet to reach the stage of bargaining – maybe with God (even though we have no faith) – promising to change our ways if He will spare our loved one.

As we work through the eye of the corona virus storm we will also find new and increased strength to deal with whatever it is we need to deal with; we will begin to articulate our personal vision and goals for dealing with the present as well as for creating the future (in the same way that our Governments will be needing to do as well).

We will build up our emotional strength and resilience; we will have learnt to work hard and from our changed scenario and shared experiences we will also have been changed as well as deeply touched and moved by the successes ……….. by new friendships built, by our neighbours’ kindnesses and care, by the unstinting generosity and compassion we will repeatedly witness from NHS and other frontline workers, by the medical and human care we know our loved one(s) will have had from their NHS carers even if we ourselves could not be there with them, and much, much more besides. Have no doubt there will indeed be many successes; there will also be so much that will deeply change and touch and move us; there will be much grief too as all our families one by one are touched by corona virus.

As human beings we will be changed; it will be incredibly tough whoever we are, whatever our role; there will be many tragedies. It will be indescribably tough for those who are caring directly for patients with corona virus. It will be incredibly tough too for all the other front line workers who are ensuring we have food, transport, utilities, medicines, refuse collections and so on. In a different way too, it will be incredibly tough being shielded, and living in solitude.

Whoever we are, whatever our role, to deal with the biggest transformational change of our lives, we must indeed pay attention to our emotional health and resilience.

We will indeed get through. Together.

Stay safe, stay well, stay in touch x

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