As we move out of lock down , we move into change. It’s inevitable. Most of us crave certainty and fear change. Many of us are even attached to the pain of what’s certain in order to avoid the uncertain. It’s the devil we know versus the devil we don’t know. We grasp to hold onto what we know. We desperately want things to stay the same, so when change comes, it can feel like a loss.
Change can feel like pain and grief.
The truth is many have experienced loss during the COVID… Loss of a loved one, loss of income, loss of a graduation, loss of a vacation, loss of time where things had to be postponed, loss of connection, loss of expectation… It’s still not over, times are still uncertain; many will still experience loss.
As we slowly enter back into the world marked by a pandemic, one thing is certain; everything has changed. Moving forward, all of us will experience loss of what we once knew.
Drawing upon the Kubler-Ross Change Curve, we can find similarities as we cope with loss and grief in managing change. It can be helpful to find yourself on the map, to understand where you are on your own change journey so you know where you might want to go. It’s helpful to remember these stages are not necessarily linear, you may move in and out of them and back through them again.
Shock & Denial: Disbelief about the event(s) and searching for evidence that it can’t be happening. Wanting something to be eternally present or eternally absent sets us up for unrealistic expectations and creates anxiety, confusion, fear and the sense of feeling stuck. It’s natural to feel anxious, we should expect it and neutralize it. What we can do in this stage of change is find the facts.
Frustration & Depression: Recognition that things are different; one might experience low mood or anger.Allowing the feelings to come as they come; it is helpful not to judge them or create a binary of good vs bad as this creates and contributes to the cycle of shame. What we can do in this stage of change is journal; direct the anger towards reflection and introspection.
Acceptance: ‘Okay I get it’; doesn’t mean I’m happy about it, it means that I’ve come to terms with it. Acceptance is not a permanent state; it’s growing and evolving and may come in waves. What we can do in this stage of change is start to create an understanding of where you are and where you want to go.
Experiment & Decision: This stage is about figuring out how to make the change fit; it involves finding your feet. One way to do this quickly is to establish certainty; a morning and evening routine can help. What we can do in this stage of change is explore options and experiment with things that might work for you and your adaptation.
Integration: This is the stage off action; a plan has been formulated and you start moving. What we can do in this stage is to get out of our heads and trust in the process of momentum, just move.
As we integrate more into the change, we adapt and become renewed again as an individual within the change. Eventually, it becomes our new normative, it becomes certain and something we can rely upon as ‘what we know’…until the next change.
Adopting the mindset and belief that nothing is permanent is half the battle in succeeding at adapting to change.
Zartler, Jessica (August 22, 2016). How to Coach Your Team Through 5 Stages of Grief –Based on the Kubler-Ross Change Curve. Task World Blog. Retrieved From:
On Purpose with Jay Shetty Podcast #130
Friedrich, E., & Wüstenhagen, R. (2017). Leading organizations through the stages of grief: The development of negative emotions over environmental change. Business & Society, 56(2), 186-213.