Psychologists have a good 5 point rubric for understanding our reactions to grief, and anything unsettling.
First, we can’t take in the bad news.
Then, we get angry and look for someone to shout at.
When that doesn’t work, we sulk and bargain.
Failing again, we are confused, dejected and flail about without a plan.
Eventually, thankfully, we fall in love with life again.
Working, living and leading the bereaved
When we watch someone dealing with the death of a loved one, these stages are very clear. Because the death is a fact, it is clear that they are having trouble absorbing the new reality into their life. We do it easily because the person didn’t play such a big role in our lives and we have less to rearrange. Our time will come.
Adjusting our identity
When the loss is something more nebulous, like our identity (not our credit cards but our sense of worth), then it is harder to see that someone is travelling a painful path. We just see someone who is being ill tempered, confused, difficult.
When the little boy asked Obama this week, “Why do people hate you?, Obama took great pains to explain to to the 9 year old the grief that his opponents feel in losing the election. He has the political maturity to understand why people are difficult and work with them anyway.
How long does it take to move through the grief cycle?
As a distant observer, I’ve been watching the underlying changes going in the States. Because I am not so close to the action, I watch dispassionately to see what is happening and to learn something that is not written up well in the psychological literature.
How long does it take for a population to adjust to stunning and inescapably bad news . . . . like Bank crashes, like the assumption of power by a new generation (Gen x)(if you are a Baby Boomer), by the invention of science we did not learn at school?
At lot has happened in the last two years. When will we find our way out of the grief reaction?
2006 – We couldn’t believe that we were overspending.
2008 – Once Lehman crashed, we railed at irresponsible bankers.
2009 – We don’t want to work with the incoming President, redesign our banks, work with Nobel winning scientists even though they are already in the WhiteHouse.
When will we move into depression, and when will we fall back in love with life?
I suppose we must expect a period of depression and dejection soon.
And after that, we can get on with the job of using new developments in science, reaching out to other countries to build a new world order, include more people at home in the decision making and in the benefits of a strong economy, use the internet to make everything easier and work out the rules of a newer more respectful economy.