In today’s episode of Coffee with Jody, I’m going to talk about navigating through the stages of grief as we go through this pandemic and its impact on our businesses and on our world. Many of you are probably quite familiar with the stages of grief from Elizabeth Kubler Ross: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance.

I’ve been thinking about grief, as I’ve talked with business owner after business owner, after business owner, and in my own personal life with my friends and my family, about how people are going through this pandemic. There’s lots of evidence of people going through these stages of grief right now. I’m going to walk through those stages with you today.

When this first happened and we began getting news of it back in March, there was a good bit of denial and many of us were kind of minimizing what was going on, do we wear a mask or not wear a mask. There was a lot of confusion, some misinformation, or just a lack of information. There’s still evidence out in the news of people being in denial about what’s going on, and then as business owners’ denial about what impact it might have on their businesses.

People thought well, it’s a virus and viruses come and go. Nobody really knew what it was going to mean to the businesses and certainly through shutdowns and so on. There was a lot of denial and there’s still a certain level of denial. I had some people telling me, they just felt like crawling up in a ball and pulling the covers over their head or climbing under the bed. Others who came out in that next stage of grief with fists and fury, full of anger saying this can’t be happening and why is this happening?

The interesting thing about this stage of anger is that it gives people energy so, it feels like that anger is doing something, but anger isn’t very effective against a virus, however it does give people the energy to stay in action. The only issue with that is that the energy that goes into anything is the energy that comes out of it.

On the other side, these are like laws of physics actually, and that law, that energy of anger doesn’t usually produce a very good outcome, but people come at this as if it’s a one way street, it’s not. Every force is met with an equal and opposite force. We’ve seen a lot of anger erupting in our streets, on the news frequently. Just today somebody who was angry because they had to wear a mask in the store, hit somebody, it’s a lot of anger and a lot of that anger is a mask for the fear that’s underneath it. Feeling out of control because they feel like they don’t have a say, so anger is a very important stage and you’ve seen, and I’ve seen lots of people that are in that stage right now.

In the sequence people then move on from anger and into bargaining, and I think that this is an important stage for us to talk about because some of the bargaining was actually really good bargaining, once we were able to reach out and say hey, you know, can I work with you on this? Or, if I stopped doing this, would you be willing to do that? People are able to kind of come together and look for ways to collaborate so as it relates to what we’re going through with this pandemic, it’s not necessarily the bargaining with God that you would think of in the stages of grief as it relates to dying, but it could be.

I know that I was talking with somebody yesterday about their bargaining with their landlord. I mean, we certainly called our landlord at the beginning of all this to ask, are you willing to do anything? And he’s like, yeah, well, you know, I’ll give you four or five extra days, but beyond that, no! Other people reached out to their landlords and they were great with them and they worked with them and they put it out the other end of their lease and or they let them spread out a couple of months over the next couple of months, so bargaining is a very important part of moving through these stages.

The interesting thing about the stages of grief is that moving through it doesn’t mean that you go like denial, anger, bargain, depression then acceptance. There are these spaces that people move through at different rates and they’re very fluid spaces.

I believe in us being able to navigate through these stages of grief, where we’re looking to create something, from here some people began moving on, some people depending on whatever industry they are in, they’re doing very well. The different stages of depression, feeling hopeless and feeling lost and feeling that they’re never going to get it right. If you look at down here in Miami, the hospitality industry was severely hit, the cruise industry and all the other ancillary businesses that support these two they’re very severely hit, their employees have also been severely hit financially.

I read something in Florida Trend magazine the other day, we’ve had a $23 billion loss of economic activity in South Florida, in just the last couple of months, not only from the cruise industry themselves, but all of the business that goes along with that. People come down for the cruise, they stay in a hotel, they go to dinner and you get the idea, so there’s a good bit of depression.

At this point, when we recognize what’s happening to us, or to your coworkers, or to our employees, or to our family members to be able to say, Hey, what can you do to take care of yourself right now? Sometimes it can be something very small, like a bath and a cup of tea or a glass of wine, or maybe like we did this weekend we rented a boat and went out on the Bay, just to get out of the house because too much being in the house, feeling so locked up in that cabin fever, it’s very real. Lots of people have different ways of dealing with depression, whether that’s running or working out or meditation or yoga or reading. I’ve been on a culinary adventure myself.

What are those different ways that people can begin to deal with the sadness or the feeling of depression, that inevitably sets in particularly at this stage of our world, dealing with the pandemic where life hasn’t really gone back to any sense of normal, the way we had hoped or were promised that it would. It will be different for each of us.

The next stage is that of acceptance and I find a lot of business owners right now are saying, okay, if this is the way that it is then now what. Many of them have looked at whether they could pivot or not, some of them have done really well during this time.

Others have had zero income from the beginning of this pandemic in March and there’s a certain acceptance of that too. The beauty of accepting, being aware and accepting is that when the actions that come from a space of acceptance, those are actions that have the energy of creation in them.

When we’re accepting what we’re dealing with, then we can begin to create. This is a really important stage of the grieving process. And again, it might be, yeah, I’m accepting it today yet in two days from now I’m angry again, or I’m frustrated or I’m afraid, or I’m in denial about it, there’s again, this fluidity. Elizabeth Kubler Ross model is one model of grieving, there are other models and one of them actually has seven stages of grief, that include shock and denial, pain and guilt, the guilt about how their fears are impacting others, of being angry and bargaining. Then the sense of being depressed that inevitably follows when things are not turning out the way we thought they would or could or should.

Accepting this, there follows this kind of this upward turn, awareness that some of the anger, and shock has kind of died off, and we’re looking at our what’s next, asking now what? Reconstructing and rebuilding and working through the pain and the anger. How? Journaling is a great tool, conversations with a friend or long walks, again, or whatever it is that you do, or you can do, or you can introduce into your day in and day out to help mitigate that depression and begin to reconstruct and work through the confusion and fear.

The part of the working through acceptance we’ve done and what we’ve done with our clients has been; what are the things that we know we want to get done in our business? How can we improve things here in the business? You’ve heard me talk about becoming raving fans of Paul Akers and his books on 2 Second LEAN and Banishing Sloppiness, and just really embracing this concept; I’m getting ready for not only what we can do with our clients today, but in 2021 and what we’ll be doing, what we were committed to be doing as we go forward beyond that, and them accepting some real hope.

Where you often hear hope is not a strategy, well I do think that hope is a really important energy and quality that drives things to get better, that they can get better and that we can take the actions necessary to make them better. So with all of that, coming back to, I think it’s really, really important that we understand that this Pandemic was a shock, that there is the experience of denial and anger and grief and this depression or sadness that as leaders, it’s our job to manage. First our energy and then the energy of our team and in our environment.

We’re called to a higher level of responsibility in managing these emotions and I think it’s really important that we recognize that they’re there and to take proactive measures to address them so that we all come through this on the other side better, healthier, happier, stronger businesses and human beings.

If you got value from this video, please like it, share it, subscribe, and thank you for being here with me today. I wish you the very, very best in your own navigation through this, and I look forward to being with you in the next episode.

Bye for now.

About the author,

With 14 years of experience in working with small and medium sized businesses to help them grow, Doug is committed to seeing business owners thrive. Business coaching is what drives Doug.

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