For healthcare professionals, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many into crisis situations that they never expected to encounter during their experience in the field. The constant sense of panic, dread, and stress – mixed with the daily experience of death and suffering – can leave even the most battle-hardened doctors and nurses in an emotional tailspin. When these feelings of grief go unchecked for long enough, they can become destructive. With a proper understanding of the common and completely normal emotions that occur in a crisis, healthcare workers can better help themselves while they help others.
Knowing the common stages of grief can help healthcare professionals journey through their emotions as they encounter incredible difficult circumstances every day. According to Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s, a grief psychology specialist, there are five stages of grief:
As a process, these emotional states can come all at once unexpectedly, or in waves off and on as the crisis plays out. By being able to define what you are currently feeling, you can begin to implement healthy habits and routines to keep yourself mentally well. If you are facing emotions that cause you to have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please contact a mental health professional immediately.
Let’s take a look at each step of the process, and how to recognize and treat each one.
Look no further than the media during COVID-19 to see the deadly effects of denial on full display. Denial can take many forms, from simply ignoring reality to actively arguing against truth to create a “safe space”. Denial is often difficult to overcome at first, as it can be hard to convince yourself of the reality and gravity of the situation. By taking the time to read and analyze experts in the field, as well as speaking with a licensed mental health professional, you can begin to dismantle denial at its source.
When anger comes, it comes on strong. Whether it’s from a lack of control, dissatisfaction with the current status quo, or overall feelings of helplessness, anger can lead to physical and mental lashing out at a variety of parties.
While the source of anger should never be minimized, it is important to build healthy habits to destress and allow yourself to “let off steam” in the moment as anger arises. Seek to empathize with yourself in your anger, and let things bubble up and overflow into healthy habits such as exercise, mindfulness, and conversations with trusted friends and healthcare workers.
As quickly as anger comes on, it can ebb away – leaving you with an emptiness that causes loss of motivation and joy. If you begin to experience these feelings, you may be moving into the third stage of grief – depression. Luckily, most mental health professionals have experience working with clients through depression, and there are many tactics by which you can fight these feelings and begin to feel yourself come back above the surface.
Depression is very prevalent as healthcare workers face quarantine conditions. By finding healthy ways to spend your time during these moments, you can keep depression at bay and process your grief. As always, a trusted mental health professional can walk with you through these moments of depression. Care should be taken if depressive thoughts are leading to self-harming behaviors or attitudes.
The final stage before acceptance is known as bargaining. Looking different for each person and every unique circumstance, bargaining is often marked by a desire to negotiate out of the current crisis or find someone or something to blame. During COVID-19, many individuals have reported that they have experienced bargaining through self-blame or by placing their hope in unproven treatments or claims – only to be let down again and again. For some, bargaining may look like negotiating with a higher power, promising to “do better” for a better outcome.
Journeying through the bargaining process without shaming oneself is an important part of this journey. Trying to find hope in the midst of grief is not bad, and should never be seen as weak. Instead, bargaining should take the role of pushing you to instill healthy habits that focus on hope and restoration, rather than shame and blame.
When Acceptance Comes, Find Hope With Apollo
The final step is acceptance – seeing reality for what it really is, and knowing that you have journeyed through an incredibly difficult season successfully. Life may never look the same, but you are now stronger for having experienced this healing process. When you are ready to continue pushing forward and helping others experience freedom from grief, Apollo is here to help.
At Apollo, our mission is to connect the best professionals to opportunities to serve in healthcare facilities that are in need. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Apollo is committed to connecting qualified individuals with a passion for healing with the locations that need them most. To learn more about Apollo and the services we offer, contact us today.