Nothing feels normal, and we know it won’t be for a while. I know I am not alone. The last time I felt this discombobulated was when my husband passed away in April 1999. Like then, everything around is in turmoil, and I feel at a loss in search of what action to take.
I am like that. I know many of my readers are as well. We tackle our challenges head-on, develop a plan, and take action. We are “get it done” type people. Perhaps it’s the first time in our lives we can’t control the environment around us. Some of us may feel like victims; some of us may want to pretend it is not a problem; some of us are just plain angry.
I was lying awake, during my 3:00 AM worry hour, and I realized that I am feeling a sense of grief. In the silence of the dark, I wondered, “Why grief?” I don’t know anyone inflicted with Covid-19 much less anyone who has passed away from it. But I do recognize my fear for the well-being of family and friends, especially my siblings, with health conditions that put them at very high risk. I worry about our grandchildren, whom I love beyond comprehension, knowing that the little ones do not understand why I keep fussing over them when they put their fingers in their mouths. I question if I said the right things to answer my eight-year-old granddaughter’s concerns to comfort her worries about whether Grampa and I would be okay. There is a lot to worry about right now.
My feeling of grief were solidified by conversations with family, friends, and clients as they sought comfort and answers to their questions, “Will my company survive?”, “Will I lose my job?”, “What will happen with the kids schooling?”, “Am I doing enough to keep my kids safe?”
Yes, I believe we are all feeling a sense of grief.
Grief is often described in stages, though each stage may last for a different period — for some people, the steps may be briefer or more prolonged than for others, and some people may not experience all of them. The five stages of grief, as described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross:
- Denial: This can’t be happening.
- Anger: Why did this happen? Who is to blame?
- Bargaining: Make this not happen, and I will do whatever it takes.
- Depression: I can’t bear this; I’m too sad to do anything.
- Acceptance: I acknowledge that this has happened, and I cannot change it.
While the five stages of grief may appear to step in a linear process, they are not. Even Kübler-Ross said that the stages are not meant to package up grief neatly — there is no typical loss and no ordinary or usual way of managing your grief. Grieving is as individual as we are. We all go through grief in our own way. You grieve at the loss of a loved one; you grieve when you lose a job, you grieve when any change we cannot understand or want is thrust upon us.
In the current situation, you may not believe your frustration has anything to do with grief. If that is the case, I ask that you not pass judgment on others as they work through figuring out their path. We should not be afraid of taking this seriously. It is serious.
In any case, I offer lessons learned from loss and change experienced from my past.
#1 – Stick to as normal of a routine as possible. Get up, take a shower, get dressed, make some coffee, and get ready to work. Lounging around in your pajamas all day may sound comfortable, but I have found that if I dress for work, I am more productive.
#2 – Set up and stick to a schedule. Create a plan for your workday at home that includes a start and end to the day. Staying consistent in the work environment at home is essential to your success and sanity. Refrain from scheduling in household duties. It will only serve to create conflict.
#3 – Create a home office space if you don’t already have one. Set up a spot in the house and declare it your “office.” You need a workspace as similar as possible to the one you have at your office. Keep the items you need to do your work nearby. If you have a busy and distracting household, make sure you can still focus on the task at hand by talking to the family. Letting them know how they can and cannot disrupt you through the workday. That will go a long way to making everyone happy.
#4 – Use headphones. Pull out your headphones for your cell phone, so you can type or take notes during your call. Noise-canceling headphones are even better.
#5 – Go outside. Social distancing does not mean you can’t take in a breath of fresh air. Leave your home at least once a day and get some fresh air and a new perspective. Take a lunch break, take the kids for a walk around the block or to the neighborhood park. Changing your environment at least once during the day can make you more productive, and the sun will make you raise your endorphins.
#6 – Use technology to communicate. When working from home, you will need to change how you interact and communicate with your colleagues. Get comfortable with Teams, Skype, Zoom, Google hangouts, or whatever is an online tool of choice. Use video wherever possible! We may need to be keep a physical distance. We do not need to keep a social or psychological distance.
#7 – Focus your communications. In a typical office setting, you may not think about connection because information just flows; everyone is right there. When working from home, you should focus on assuring your communication with key team members and stakeholders regularly. You may need to add more content and context to your communication to ensure the details don’t fall through the cracks.
#8 – Reframe your thoughts and conversations to stay positive. Instead of focusing on your worries, focus on the good things. For example, because we are home, we are slowing down the spread of Covid-19. Because of Covid-19, we have more time to spend with the kids. Because of Covid-19, we can come together as a community to help each other.
#9 – Reframe your thoughts and conversations to stay positive. When my husband Tony died in 1999, I was a mess. During grief counseling, the therapist presented me a challenge:
“Now is the time to do something you always wanted to do but found an excuse not to do, perhaps fear, time, or money.”
So, I decided to take up sailing. A love that stayed with me until I chose to move to the desert. How about if you use this time for reflection and learning? Think about it; this may be the perfect time to take up learning a new language, pick up that guitar sitting in the corner collecting dust, or merely read that stack of books that is waiting for you.
#10 – Trust and believe you will survive this. Acknowledging that you may experience some or all these stages will help you understand what may be happening. Know that your feelings are reasonable, and it’s important to remember that at some point, it will get better. Most important take care of yourself and your family along with support for your friends and community. You may not get over your loss, but you will survive it.
We have the choice as to how we will react to situations in our life. We can either let them beat us down or teach us a hard lesson and grow from them. Choose to keep going even when it seems hard or impossible; there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. You will come out the other side a better person for it.
If you ever just need to talk, give me a call. Please trust my offer has no sales strings attached. This is not the time that anyone with honor should be bothering CIO’s and IT Executives with sales calls.
Take care, be safe and wash your hands often.