(Adapted from David Kessler’s website www.grief.com)
Remember way back when people from professional athletes to politicians were outright making fun of the hysteria around COVID-19? An NBA basketball star playfully touched everything in his vicinity after a press conference only to test positive days after. News commentators and some politicians poked fun at the idea that we were facing a pandemic. And many people latched on to that attitude because it felt a lot better than the doom and gloom of those who were predicting devastating times ahead. Whether these people were being naive or trying to be positive or just being irresponsible does not matter. What matters is that it was a common initial response. Across the country, people were not accepting the fact that this was serious and headed in our direction. Certainly, almost no one understood the speed or gravity of what we were all about to experience.
It did not take much for those same people to change their views. The NBA player apologized and publicized the need to take the outbreak seriously. Cable news personalities apologized for their dismissive attitudes. Politicians stepped up and started to lead. And gradually, across the country, people were realizing that their lives were about to change.
As the reality of the crisis started to be undeniable, people started to turn to feelings of anger – asking everything from why we are not better prepared to why the government is closing businesses and causing financial hardships for many. Friends started to judge friends about who was not doing enough social distancing, who still went to work, etc. Some outright refused to follow the guidelines issued by their governors and local governments. From every sector of society, frustration and anger could be heard — medical professionals, local government officials, small business owners, tenants, landlords, etc. Underneath all of this anger lies fear of the unknown and a concern for how we will survive the situation and for the still unknown situation lying ahead of us. Of course we are all angry – this situation is hard on all of us and scary and it’s precisely when we need our government, business, education and medical leaders to step up and tell us how they are going to fix everything and make it all okay.
But some of us are starting to recognize that now more than ever, we better be able to take care of ourselves – to prepare and plan for how to manage through a crisis and to emerge from the crisis as unscathed as possible. Anger is natural and understandable but can be counterproductive if not managed.
While you are sitting at home in quarantine, you may find yourself dwelling on the past. Why didn’t I wait until after this is over to buy that property? Why didn’t I sell some stocks before the market crashed? Why didn’t I stock up on essentials?
We were in Costco a week before everyone started to hoard toilet paper and actually made the decision while in line that there was no reason to walk all the way back to the end of the store to grab the toilet paper that we forgot — who could have imagined that a week later it would all be gone?! Took a while to be able to laugh about that as a real tp shortage started to emerge.
But we need to recognize that negotiating with our past, even about a thing as basic and seemingly silly as neglecting to stock up on toilet paper, is not useful. We end up beating ourselves up for the past instead of finding ways to move forward in our new situation. In our case, we just ordered some overpriced toilet paper from Amazon to feel assured that we would not be left needing to beg neighbors to lend us what has oddly become a precious commodity in this absurd situation we find ourselves in today.
On the real estate front, we noted the fact that we had five projects at various stages and the importance to decide how to handle each one to produce the best outcome possible within the difficult circumstances.
Of course, it is normal when you lose someone, to feel intensely sad. It is very important to understand that this is normal and accept the sad feelings. In the case of the Coronavirus crisis, we are all suffering some kind of loss, even if we are among the fortunate to not have suffered the loss of a loved one. People are losing jobs and money, some are losing the plans they had made – from vacations to weddings to tickets to attend a concert. Athletes are losing the opportunity to play entire seasons; students are losing their graduation ceremonies. It is endless. And it all has a heavy and legitimate impact on our psyche. Expect to have days that you struggle. But also make sure to maintain connections, join in webinars and other activities that allow you to stay in connection and build new connections to others. It really is true that “tomorrow is another day”.
Already, we see signs of how government programs will mediate the difficulties to some degree. And in virtually every domain of life – family, friends, work, etc. we see people helping one another through empathy, through sharing and through humor. A crisis can bring a lot of good out of people and organizations.
This is the stage you want to reach. Some of us will get there sooner than others. The important thing is to get there. Do not get confused – “acceptance” does not mean defeat. It means that you are no longer trying to deny it and no longer trying to push it out of the way. Now you know that and accept that you have to accept the new reality and manage it. Constantly wishing to return to the past will not serve us well. The past is in the past and new circumstances have now made it impossible to return to the way things were. Those who know how to accept that and adapt accordingly will come out of this stronger and maybe even happier. It is also important to be okay with being sad or frustrated about what has been lost. But it is important to simultaneously build the new ways of thinking and working and to leverage the new ideas that have come from this new paradigm that is evolving from the crisis. Change is a constant in our lives — it is just not usually anywhere near this fast or this all-inclusive.