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The Stages of Grief: COVID Edition

It's 2020. It's almost Christmas. We're still in the middle of a pandemic. In fact, we are experiencing what appears to be an incredible surge that is exerting tremendous pressure on our healthcare and social service system. The headlines are clear: we're not done with this madness and December 31, 2020 will not magically be the "end of it". 

Earlier in the year, our family thought about whether we might be able to travel at this time. We thought that maybe the curve would be flat enough that we could take a few days away from home during the Christmas holidays. We realized that the pandemic would still be happening, but with the right protections and with prolific mask usage, we could get a much-needed change of scenery. During what is now (clearly) a delusional thought process, we booked a stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee for the week of December 19th. Spoiler alert: we canceled the trip almost two weeks ago. 

Canceling this trip was not a tragedy. In fact, I realize the degree of privilege from which I speak in that we even had the option to take time off of work and have the funds to travel. Throughout this difficult year, I have kept my job. Work hasn't slowed down at all for me (part of the reason why a break was really important). I also needed a brain break from school and a chance to decompress. If I stayed home, I worried that my thoughts would be on everything that wasn't right in my house; I would feel the need to organize things, clean things, work on "stuff". But on a vacation away from home, I would be forced to relax. 

In early December, Roger raised the question about whether we should go. We discussed the pros and cons over a few days. At first, there was denial. Maybe it won't be that bad. We'll just stay in our lodging or go hiking in the National Park. We can cook and order out. That argument didn't last long. 

When we finally canceled the trip two weeks ago, my grief turned to anger. Why don't we have this stupid pandemic under control? Why can't people just wear a mask and follow instructions? Why don't we live in New Zealand

Then I was just sad. I had already canceled a major girlfriend trip this year, not to mention all the other concerts, activities, and family events that didn't happen in 2020 because of COVID. Like many others, this year has made me tired. SO tired. Add on the grief triggers that I typically get from this time of year and...oof. I sat in that sadness for a few days until I transitioned to...

Bargaining...the tricky stage of grief that makes you think that you still have some control. As I entered this phase, my anxiety kicked into a higher gear. Well, if I'm going to stay home, now I can clean and organize things. I can get all that stuff done that's been on the to-do list for ages. Or I can read articles and books related to my potential dissertation. I'll be productive and still be on vacation. Of course, a staycation can have potential, but I recognized that I really needed a true break this time around. 

I'm on day 5 of my week-long break from work. I've already had a few work-related calls and emails that needed attention (All together, not even one hour of work. It's ok.). I found a few small organizing projects to engage in and completing them made me happy. I also spent a WHOLE DAY where I barely moved from the couch, watching TV, reading, and playing games. I didn't feel guilty about it! I planned a new "Hey, we won't be staying in a place that's not ours" holiday menu for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. A few days ago, I read an article citing the worst states to visit right now. Tennessee was number one. I felt a little better about our decision. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be with people I love, to have my health, and to have a few days with literally NOTHING on the calendar. Is this acceptance? 

This year has been SO hard. If 2020 has been difficult for you, know that you are not alone. If you are finding yourself changing your plans because of COVID and, as a result, feeling all the feels, know that you have made the right decisions for the safety of your family and your community. Here's to a brighter future ahead. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go walk my dog and then sit on the couch with a book. Important stuff! 

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