Moving From Denialism To Acceptance During Times Of Crisis

Self, Health And Wellness

When Edward’s beloved wife of thirty years died suddenly, he locked the door of his home in Edinburgh in the United Kingdom and started walking. I met him near Santiago de Compostela in Spain, after he had already done more than 1,500 miles on foot and carrying only a small backpack.

Edward shared his story over a meal in a pilgrims hostel, telling us that his life had been thrown completely off balance by the death of his partner. He did not know how to express his grief and deal with the inner emptiness when all the parameters had changed.

Stage One: Denialism

The sense of grief, disorientation and denial is the first stage when suffering a loss, he explained.

“Why did this have to happen to me? Everything was just running so well. The doctors messed it up.”

When looking at our current global situation triggered by the pandemic, we are going through the process on a collective level. Lives have been turned upside down, jobs have been lost, some people have lost family members. The reaction of some governments was at first denialism: “It’s a virus in China. It won’t get to us.”

When the lockdown measures were put in place we had those folk shouting. “It’s a conspiracy. It’s fake news.” I’ve even heard people say that the television pictures of the mass graves in Brazil, Italy and New York were forged.

Stage Two: Anger

Powerful emotions come to play when we are frightened. Anger is closely linked to denial when we seek to blame others for the state we are in. Blaming an individual or external circumstances when everything collapses around you is a natural reaction. It however blocks introspection and projects the cause of your misery to someone else. You are not taking responsibility for your reaction.

Stage Three: Sadness

In extreme cases sadness over that which was and is no more will lead to complete procrastination. The mind is completely lost in the past, wandering aimlessly through past experiences. All your thoughts are with the former lover from whom you have become separated. Your life has been reduced to the hope that the next phone call could be him/her, asking for you to take him/her back because they can’t live without you. You might have a dream where the deceased family member is alive again.

Stage Four: Emotional Acceptance

It is necessary to accept the feelings of anger, sadness and emptiness that come with a loss. You are being authentic and you are being human. Every person deals differently with grief and loss. It is not very helpful when friends tell you: “Just get over it and move on.” We are not machines that can switch off a feeling. If you suppress strong emotions they will come back to haunt you with a vengeance at a later stage in your life. It could even be in the form of a serious illness or a life threatening disease. Edward was crying his heart out in the early part of his walk. Deep pilgrimage walking is therapy and spiritual healing. I’ve met pilgrims who were walking off the hurts they were dealing with for most of their lives. In the stage of emotional acceptance you are far enough down the road where you are accepting the truth as it is. “Yes, I’m an alcoholic who needs help.” “Yes, I am sad, angry and upset about my own failures and mistakes.” “Yes, I’m lost, heavily in debt and need help to get out of this.”

Stage Five: Opening for a New Beginning

Suffering loss and defeat is part of life’s lessons. The question that needs to be asked is: Why do some sail through a crisis while others are knocked completely off balance? Building resilience is key. We know from numerous studies that those persons embedded in a value system, religion or philosophy have an easier time finding purpose and meaning with whatever life throws at them. If body and mind are kept at a high energy frequency you will be in a much better position to adapt to changing external circumstances out of your control. Times of crisis are also times when you can recalibrate and reposition. What do you really want? Where do you really want to go? The universe has a different timeline. We need only look at the law of the seasons that are in a never-ending cycle of spring and summer with birth, expansion and growth followed by autumn and winter with which come withdrawal, recuperation and standstill. Impermanence is simply a fact of life.

Reino Gevers is a life coach and author. In his book new book Deep Walking for Body, Mind, and Soul, he has chronicled how pilgrims walk-off personal problems and build resilience. For more information, visit his website.

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