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Column COVID-19 is a tsunami of loss for seniors

Olds Institute Age Friendly committee offers advice

The COVID-19 pandemic is a time of collective sorrow. We are all grieving.  

Weddings, concerts, graduations, meetings, travel plans, events, and more have been cancelled.

It has forced us to process both individual and collective grief in the face of an uncertain future which we are powerless to control. We are mourning the loss of normalcy.

Some other things that we may be grieving as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic include:

• job loss

• financial anxiety

• loss of safety

• worry about loved ones

• social distancing, quarantine and feelings of isolation

• changes in daily habits and routine

• clashes with family members over how to protect yourself

• worries about how to pay rent, utilities, and other bills

• sadness over how the pandemic will affect the world

• fears for the future

• COVID-19 UPDATE: Follow our COVID-19 special section and interactive map for the latest local and national news on the coronavirus pandemic, as well as resources, FAQs and more.

In her book, On Grief and Grieving, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross gives clinical insights into universal process of how human beings grieve through five common stages of grief:  denial, anger, bargaining, despair and acceptance.

Dr. Kübler-Ross acknowledges these stages are fluid, not fixed. They might or might not occur in the order presented; people may experience variations of the same stage multiple times.


Denial is the intellectual and emotional rejection of something that is clear and obvious.

Today, denial may sound like:

• This whole thing is overblown.

• It’s the same as the flu. People get the flu every year and hardly anyone dies.

• I’m not old, so I’ll be fine.


Anger is an attempt to gain control over our fears. Rather than accepting and dealing with the problem, we turn hostile, blaming others.

Today, anger may sound like:

• This is all China’s fault. If they’d quarantined earlier, we wouldn’t be having this problem

• I don’t care what the chief medical officer says about staying home, I’m going to work.

• I’m bored and I’m having some friends over.


Bargaining occurs when denial breaks down and we start to acknowledge reality.  

Today, bargaining may sound like:

• It’s OK to spend time with others as long as they wash their hands before they see me.

• This will all be over soon. I’ll be safe until then and then we can go back to normal.

• I will be fine as long as I stay around people who are healthy.


Despair and depression occur when reality fully sets in.

Today, despair could sound like:

• I can’t go to work and I can’t earn money. Pretty soon, I’ll be broke and homeless.

• This epidemic is the new normal. I can say goodbye to my hopes and dreams.

• I am high-risk and likely to die alone.


Acceptance occurs when we finally acknowledge and surrender to the facts.

Today, acceptance may sound like:

• I can’t control the pandemic, but I can do my part by staying home, washing my hands, and staying positive.

• The fact that I can’t leave my house doesn’t mean my life has to stop. I can work from home; I can still connect with my friends and family via phone and the internet. I can also enjoy the extra time I have with my spouse and my kids.

• The world is going to change, but maybe when all this is over, we will be kinder to one another.

We are grieving our roles – our routines, our journey and our regular contact with those who are on our journey with us. It’s all hard. It’s all grief.

Allow yourself some anger, denial, bargaining, and a bit of despair. Go ahead and grieve. You have earned it. We all have.

Age Friendly Committee of the Olds Institute