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Many will feel hopeless but we can all find meaning in what we're doing to aid the fight

Claire Hayes


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‘The reality of Covid-19 is unsettling. “Finding meaning” will become an important part of the recovery phase of Covid-19.’

‘The reality of Covid-19 is unsettling. “Finding meaning” will become an important part of the recovery phase of Covid-19.’

‘The reality of Covid-19 is unsettling. “Finding meaning” will become an important part of the recovery phase of Covid-19.’

We have become familiar with the three phases of our response to Covid-19: containment, delay and mitigation. Many of us are also familiar with Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. There is an important distinction between the two. The first is linear, the second is not. We know that we have now moved into the delay phase in our response to the virus. The hope is that we will stay in it as long as possible before moving to mitigation.

Despite all the pleas, some people remain firmly stuck in the denial stage. "It won't happen to me" is a view that used to be seen as typical of many adolescents, resulting in frightening and risky behaviours. Sadly, we know adults of all ages somehow believe they can behave however they want without considering the serious and maybe fatal consequences. Denial can be an important and healthy mechanism, protecting us when reality is just too difficult to take in. Getting stuck in the denial phase is dangerous.

We don't want to get stuck in the 'anger phase' either. Nor do we want to avoid it. Anger dealt with well is healthy and essential. Anger bottled up can lead to depression and/or unexpected explosions of temper. The novelty of schools being closed has probably worn off, so children are getting narky. Why wouldn't they? The novelty of working from home has probably worn off too and understandably, lots of adults are getting narky. We know that there will be hundreds of thousands of people who will lose their jobs, with uncertainty as to when and how they will earn again. How could they not feel angry? Yes, we can direct our anger towards the virus, but that is easier said than done. It might not be very satisfying either. So, our anger can leak out to affect people in ways we regret. Covid-19 is not young children's fault, not politicians' fault, and not the fault of people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and became infected. Getting stuck in the anger phase is dangerous.