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Good Grief?

March 21, 2020

Are you mad, Bro?

Wait. Don’t tell me. Let me guess. You can’t find any more toilet paper.


Are you ticked off that you couldn’t find any more Clorox disinfectant wipes in the value size three pack at Walmart? Or maybe it was the jumbo 12 roll package of Kirkland Create-A-Size paper towels at Costco? Or that economy size 5 lb. tray of chicken breasts, all cold and plump and juicy looking squished into that yellow styrofoam tub now gone missing?

Ah…it’s okay. Your #2 freezer in the garage is pretty much maxed out for space anyway. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise?

Maybe it’s that enviable number of stock holdings you have in Apple, or Google, or perhaps Tesla? You sure know how to pick ’em! Or, rather, you did. You might be mad because, man, those companies took a wallop in the markets this week.

No? It’s your 401k? Your retirement savings! Ah, yeah. That doesn’t look good either. That’s a reason to punch a hole in the wall, for sure. Lotsa cashola tied up in that one.

Or maybe you’re upset that this spooky virus is no longer some ominous headline from January creeping across the news ticker at the bottom of your cable news channel that you dismissed with a shrug. You’re possibly furious that, somehow, that rascally bug got out of control and they cancelled March Madness. Or Major League Baseball spring training. Or the Masters golf tournament. Even your gym is closed, for crying out loud.

Is it your vacation to Cancun (non-refundable)? You know, that all-inclusive resort with the sun, sandy beaches, buffets and bottomless margaritas es no bueno because travel south of the border has been nixed?

What? That’s still not it? You’re still pissed off? WHY?

Oh. Now I get it.

The restaurant that you work at just closed because nobody’s supposed to go out to dinner at them anymore and you’re out of a job.

The work you found as a roughneck in the oilfields of North Dakota is over because the price of a barrel has fallen through the floor.

You just found out that your kids won’t have school for a month while they clean and disinfect the classrooms of the virus, forcing you to take another shift at the auto plant to pay for their day care. But that plant just shut down too. You now must work to repay a debt that will continue to grow, depleting your meager savings. You will never catch up.

You just heard that the assisted living facility where your elderly mother lives has just announced their first case of COVID-19 inside those walls. Your mom is now quarantined to her room. You cannot visit her.

You went to bed last night after a 12 hour shift as a respiratory therapist at the county hospital and then woke up today with 101º fever, a dry cough and the inability to catch your breath. But you’re out of sick time and rent is due in 10 days. You stay home anyway, because you’re smart. You know…you went to college and learned a little about communicable diseases. (Too bad about those student loans you’re still paying back all these years later…) You now have to go to the Emergency Room in the hopes of getting tested.

You have reason to be mad. Really mad.

I do too.

My career as an airline pilot will soon be over, again. This’ll be the third time my wings will get clipped. Yet another 100% pay cut. The whole global travel industry stands to be decimated.

My family is now sequestered from others. My wife and elderly parents each are considered a much greater risk of contracting a severe case of the virus due to their preexisting conditions and weakened immune systems.

And the world I know, perhaps worst of all, is rapidly shrinking to the size of our homes, stuck here as we are. Towns, cities, states and countries all around the globe are reporting spikes in cases of COVID-19. More deaths due to the virus are tallied each day.

And it doesn’t take much intellect to figure out that this pandemic could be cataclysmic to economies near and far, small and large. Everyone will feel this, if not physically, certainly financially. For a long time.

Anger seems fitting. None of this seems fair. It is not.

This is loss on a staggering scale. This is grief. We are all experiencing grief. My heart breaks just writing this.

Most psychologists agree that there are 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most people go through them in order, but it is entirely possible to lightly brush against one or regress to another. It’s a continuum, not always distinct.

Unless you’re truly living with your head buried in the sand, you’re probably past the first stage, denial.

What I see from the words and acts of colleagues of mine, they are squarely camped out on the second stage–anger. For all the reasons I mentioned above and more. Rational or not, people are furious. They have every right to feel as they do.

But where I differ from them is this need to blame someone, something, some place, like China and all its people, wherever they reside.

Why do I feel this way? It’s pointless, that’s why. Does anyone think China will somehow send us a check in recompense for everything we’ve lost? I don’t think so. It is therefore a waste of emotion to me.

Personally, I wouldn’t do a damn thing differently. I love my chosen occupation. Best job in the world. I didn’t want to go into dentistry, though that certainly would have kept me employed through all these twists and turns in our world history.

I could have kept my earned money beneath my mattress, too. Just not a wise idea. It would have been lumpy too.

And everything living we know one day will die. This, my friends, is irrefutable. I hope it’s a natural death, of old age. But we have no control of this.

I get it. You’ve lost a lot, and possibly much more to come. Me, too.

But perhaps it is better to focus that energy and emotion on solutions to our struggles and compassion for those that have it even worse than we do. I think it is.

Grief and the stages of it are a part of any loss. Good grief, just admit this.

And don’t stay mad, Bro.

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