Public reaction to the sudden and drastic change from the new coronavirus pandemic is worthy of assessment. The pandemic has had a major impact on public psychology in every country and territory. This reaction is equivalent to the human response to deep loss and grief. It is critical to recognise and understand that reality.
After Hurricane Irma’s tragic and devastating trajectory through these Virgin Islands, the effects on human life and behaviour were apparent. The most daunting observation was the deaths of elderly residents who after a life of hard work stepped out after the hurricane to see that their life’s work was destroyed in the few hours the hurricane pummelled the territory. That trauma broke hearts and killed many in the weeks and months after the event.
The pandemic is both different and similar. It is not a pummelling and murderous storm. It is an invisible virus that has shut down the territory and much of the rest of the world. However, the effects on human behaviour are similar to Irma: loss and grief.
As the coronavirus spread throughout the world, people lost not simply their livelihoods, but their freedom of movement from lockdown and curfew. Nevertheless, lockdown and curfew are the best ways to manage the infection rate, short of a vaccine or cure.
‘Stages of grief’
Consequently, the seven stages of grief are a factor in how humans are affected by this crisis.
The pandemic is impacting people of all ages physically and psychologically, albeit in different ways. Children are affected differently than adults, who understand how serious the pandemic is in seeking to kill and destroy. For many children, being off from school is an unexpected holiday.
Now, shock is the first clear stage in the human response to coronavirus. The trauma that your life will never be the same again is similar to losing a loved one, and suddenly. It is indeed a shock.
Then there is the denial stage: Observe the stupidity of anti-lockdown protestors. These are people clearly in denial that their behaviours are a danger to themselves and others.
There is the anger stage at the fact that there is sudden loss of freedom and self-sufficiency. That burst of temper and bout of snappiness can have its source in the sudden change the pandemic has brought on our lives.
Depression: This stage is a deep sadness at the sudden loss of livelihood and the deep change from loss of freedom and movement.
Guilt is a common emotion deriving from the belief that others may be suffering much more than we are. It is similar to the irrational guilt felt at the loss of a loved one.
Coping and reconstruction: After a period of time, we all begin to adjust to the new reality and adopt coping mechanisms to take us through a very difficult time.
From coping, we arrive at the final stage in the process: acceptance.
‘End of the tunnel’
There is light at the end of the tunnel when we accept the tragedy in all of its dimensions and parameters. We are able to see ahead when acceptance is adopted and moulded into our hearts and minds.
After the final acceptance stage in the seven-stage process, our survival in this pandemic is better guaranteed. We believe we will not simply make it through this difficult time, but even thrive through it.
The light at the end of the tunnel is truly a better day ahead: not the headlamps of an oncoming bullet train.
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