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How do we collectively heal from a Universal Grief? We’ve all heard of the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. But, have you heard of the 6th stage of Grief? Finding meaning, the 6th stage of grief coined by David Kessler, is not something everyone will experience post-loss. Finding meaning in our grief takes courage to seek out in a time when definitions seem scarce. Today on La.Rue, I want to have an open conversation about the effects of COVID over this last year and how it’s essentially brought us all through a grieving process. From this grieving, we are beginning to see the light at the end of this tunnel. Therefore, many people are reaching their stage of acceptance from this year of change, shock, and isolation. But, now that we’re reaching acceptance, how are we finding meaning in a time that’s changed our collective experience?
Before, there was a normal—our everyday life, with everyday problems and everyday grief. Post-COVID era will enlighten us and our experience to what we’re defining as a new normal. A post-pandemic era in which every person in the world collectively shared one single experience. The “normal” we all once lived in, no matter how different it was from the person standing next to you at the bank, writing a check for their new million-dollar home to your pay stub of four hundred dollars—is no longer the “normal” we live in. What we’re grieving is that collective experience and the formal normal we once knew as everyday life. What do we have now? People scared to leave their homes, postponements of every major milestone, loss of jobs, loss of lives, and a new collective experience to find meaning in.
What is Our “New Normal?”
On a scale that is the entirety of the world’s population, collective healing first requires acceptance that change is inevitable. Change is the true constant in this world. Everything and everyone is constantly changing and evolving to the environment provided. Not everyone will accept this, and not everyone will adapt to the new normal that we’re in. But, those who do will have created the space in their lives necessary to find meaning. To lean on the theories of Elisabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler, I believe acceptance can be defined in one of two ways, when we’ve lost something inanimate like time. We either accept that the thing itself is gone, or we accept that it’s something we simply cannot change. If you embrace the latter, you’re able to better find meaning in what is now lost but not necessarily gone.
The normal we once experienced isn’t a past reality that we’re nostalgic for, like how people in their 20s reminisce for the Gatsby era. The normal that was less than two years ago is the where in the who, what, when, where, why sequence of finding meaning for our future. The what being the pandemic itself. Put those two things together, and your equation of “past normal” plus “present lesson” literally equals our new normal. And that is where we get to find our meaning. Life doesn’t always hand us the most beautiful lessons to embrace. But, in this case, it’s been a lesson we don’t have to handle alone. I think we can all agree that, simply put, the new normal is change. But, this is where the 6th stage of grief comes in. It’s up to us to grab our brushes and paint the picture however we’re inspired.
6th Stage of Grief: Finding Meaning Post-COVID
COVID, if it has given us anything positive, has made us a bit more resilient to the potential hard changes we may face on a global scale. But individually, what has it done for you? Finding meaning in a time where we’re forced to be isolated taught us that life and time is fleeting. We believe that we have all this time on our hands and that the things we do don’t always matter or directly affect our future. I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. We don’t have all the time, and everything affects our future. That’s why living with purpose and intention day-to-day offers you a balance of both “living life to its fullest” and meaning.
By learning to transform the aforementioned emotions of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance into an experience for healing, we open ourselves up to new opportunities. We often suppress these natural emotions out of the fear of them becoming “too much to handle” or “too overwhelming.” In reality, our only efforts should be towards embracing those emotions to continue moving on. Without having gone through those previous steps, we wouldn’t have the ability to find meaning within the process of grief. Ultimately, the change that we fear and inevitably face leads to collective healing. We must grieve our wounds together rather than slapping a band-aid over them when we get stuck at one step of the grieving process.
Collective healing, working on your higher self, stepping into alignment–these are all things are that are for the greater good. Your success is success for everyone. You achieving your dreams is power in universal success. So, if we define the moral consciousness as “the greater good,” then collective healing is power that renews the integrity of change. The meaning in all of this has been complex and challenging issues that have realigned us with resilience, and a collective disposition for one’s suffering or grief. So what is the narrative reflection? There is power in grief and change. And our “new normal” is offering meaning for the highest version of our future self.