Whenever a major event rocks our world we go through a couple of transitions that look a lot like the grieving process. I’ve become much more familiar with the stages of grief ever since the death of my youngest son this past December; Danny was a co-founder of Thrive.

For those of you lucky enough to not have experienced the five stages of grief they are as follows: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

There are many versions of visual representations of this, below is one:

With the restrictions to our movements and behaviors, it is safe to say we have all lost some things dear to us…in the worst cases, someone dear has been lost.

There are so many sources of advice online that we will be sticking to the scientifically proven realities of these grief cycle we are all pedaling together now.

The most important thing is that you really can’t skip any of these steps without a cost, and that cost can last a lifetime.

We should all be past the February and March stages of Denial and well into stage 2. We are angry as hell about what has been taken by this virus, the government, or corporate complex – or whoever the villain in your journey happens to be.

Since these stages are shown sequentially it can be harder to see that the stages can exist at the same time in varying degrees. As an example, today my feelings are that I’m 20% Angry, 40% Bargaining, and 40% Depressed. 

Having been ill for a while and the terrible event in December means I’m stacking grief cycles like firewood at the moment. Hopefully, your feelings at this stage don’t involve as much Depression.

I haven’t even come close to acceptance in either of my Grief Cycles. My guess is that not many are at Acceptance with the Coronavirus either since we aren’t sure what we have to accept. Are masks a continuing fashion item? Where can we go and what do we need to change in our behaviors when we go there?

Each one of these stages is navigated with a combination of knowledge and emotions, and we need to be careful to balance those in our decisions. A common tendency in the Anger stage is towards Displaced Aggression. This simply defined as aggressive behavior that cannot be expressed to the actual source that provoked the behavior; instead, the anger is taken out on the easiest victim.

It is this stage where we are most likely to hurt others to provide a salve for our own wounds, but it is rarely satisfying and often regretted. Be very careful when you feel anger to try not to lay it at the feet of someone with no blame.

Bargaining is another stage where things can get very complicated and confusing, and certain Cognitive Biases can result in a terrible bargain. Since my son’s death, a strange book has come to mind that was read years ago, Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. It’s a movie also, but somehow that didn’t convey the mental state of the parents as they struggle with their terrible options as well as the book.

Read a year before my deceased son was born, the Bargains made in the book seemed crazy, but recently in the middle of the night, it was a bargain that seemed rational in that moment when you would give anything close to the old normal.

The types of bargains we make now will all look good a first. Opening up the country is a major bargain we are making with the Virus, and we don’t (and can’t) know if it is a good one for us in the long run. As we head into May with the head of the national task force saying it will be behind us by Memorial Day, we have to remember that it is very unlikely things will ever be as they were, but a very good chance they will be tolerable as we adapt to the behavior changes that will make it so.

Hyperbolic Discounting is a very pervasive cognitive bias. Simply put, it is our tendency to value short term gains over the long term – so that paycheck in two weeks sure looks more tangible than being alive in 3 months.

This bias hurts us in areas like dieting, where we dismiss the long term effects of the types or quantity of foods we are eating in the moment, and saving for retirement when we like taking the expensive trip or buying the sports car instead of funding 401Ks.

We will learn quickly how well we manage this month and hope that this doesn’t throw us back into the front of another damn Cycle of Grief.

While we are a business at Thrive, we have always said our main product is Better Days, so we will be focused on providing more frequent information on what we see in our clients’ Cycles (anonymously of course) and I look forward to hearing from you at jstafura@GoThrive.io.

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