Barry’s words – April (Week 3)

DR BARRY FATOVICH (MB BS, FRACGP)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At our weekly team meetings Barry will have a chat with us to get us thinking and to also help the stress levels through these strange and uncertain times, the Lockridge team and Barry thought it would be great to share this with our patients.

April (Week 3) –

We are now at week 5. We have talked about coping strategies and living in the present moment. While there is uncertainty and loss of control, there is also the possibility of looking at this as mystery, that sense of not knowing and being patient with ourselves in the not knowing.  A   powerful response comes in the many varied feelings that are generated in our lives as our circumstance are changing in ways beyond our control. Today I want to look at these feelings from another perspective, that of loss. We are confronting many losses at this time, the need to change our behaviour (hand washing and physical distancing), with restaurants, cafes and movie theatres closed we cannot go out, let alone visit family and friends. Then there is the sports dimension.  Gyms are closed and there is no football. While all this has happened there continue to be the ongoing problems that come up, my sister’s husband is in hospital.

The response to loss is taken from the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who was a psychiatrist working with dying patients in the early days of palliative care in the 1960s and 1970s.  She developed these stages of grief from her work with people who were dying. When confronted with significant loss, we go through a series of stages as we adjust. They are:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance and peace

Denial is often the first reaction, a sense of this is not real, or its not as serious as people are making out or simply, I do not believe this. As it starts to sink in there is an emotional response, people can be angry. They may be angry at the government, angry at one another, angry at the cause of this or just angry. In the next stage there is a kind of bargaining or making a compromise, this can be a bargaining with whatever one believes in whether its God or the universe, if you let me have one more day with my mum I will be good, or in a relationship breakdown, the bargain might be “even though we are splitting up, can we still be friends”.  The next stage involves depression, we can feel sad and regretful as the emotional impact of what is happening sinks in. It is natural to feel sadness, regret, uncertainty and any one of a range of feelings. Through this we come to a stage of acceptance and peace. When Kubler-Ross described these stages, it was initially thought to be a step by step process, we now realise that people go back and forth through these stages as we come to terms with what is happening around us.

When we are going through all this, we adapt in different ways and we can be at different stages, so all we can do is be kind to one another. What do we do with the feelings we experience? This poem by Leunig seems to capture well how we might respond.

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