My 5 stages of grief with COVID-19 as told by my stories

Note: The hyperlinks in this blog post will lead to the articles I have written about COVID-19.

I vividly remember the first time I learned about the coronavirus. It was in early January; I dropped my kid in his school then grabbed the newspaper that day on my way home and later saw the news about the mysterious illness in Wuhan, China in the inside pages. The story was a short blurb and did not really stand out. It would be easy to overlook if you skim the morning paper. The virus did not have a proper name yet and affected 44 people at that time. Working as a writer for more than a decade, I know that those types of stories sell, so I took note of it for future use.

I wrote a story with a travel angle. To my surprise, the infection spread fast in less than two weeks. It spread in other countries and Wuhan went into lockdown. I bet you were like me who shrugged off the news and went on with your life. Little that we know, it will blow out into pandemic.

First stage: Denial

Almost like a sci-fi/dystopian novel, the virus progressed faster than we expected and it affected the industry (travel) that I’m working for. Our founder was worried that the onslaught of negative news will make us an alarmist and will make clients doubt to pursue their campaigns as well as may fend off potential customers. In late January, he requested that I wrote a story that will somehow put the industry as ease.

I admit that I made some naïve remarks in the article and I apologise for that. However, the story was written when there was very little information available about the virus and all of us are in a confused state of its possible effects.

But I stand by some of my statements such as:

“Fake news spread faster than the virus. We live in a world where social media is so ubiquitous that it is hard to filter what goes on our newsfeed. By believing and sharing fake news, aren’t we adding fuel to the fire and harbour unreasonable fear and anxiety?…

“Prevention is always better than cure and the same goes for this virus. Just like the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO), frequent handwashing and proper nutrition will keep you from contracting the disease.”

Second stage: Anger

The situation we are in became very clear and real when the Philippine government announced several restrictions under the “enhanced community quarantine,” (which is basically a lockdown in order to contain the spread of the virus) first in Metro Manila then expanded to the whole island of Luzon. Later on, more countries went into lockdown and we saw how the virus wreaked havoc in many countries like Italy, Spain and France.

There were many times that I felt anger towards the Philippine government and the Republic of China. As the world stood still, I cannot help but compare how some countries responded to COVID-19 and envy those that came through the other side triumphant. Some countries fared better than others and thwarted the rate of infection. Other countries support their citizens during this time in many ways. For example, the Japanese government gave every household JPY 100,000. Now, they are giving subsidies for travel and announced free vaccine for every citizen. I am green with envy.

In the Philippines, the disparity between the rich and the poor widened greatly. The poorest of the poor received financial aid from the government, but middle-income families were left to fend off on their own. Filipinos faced many challenges as thousands lost their jobs, hospitals in overcapacity, the opening of classes being pushed back many times.

Third stage: Bargaining

As days progressed, we dove into uncertainty. I remember making a deal with myself saying that I’ll stay home for a while and follow the rules; I will wear a face mask, a face shield, minimise my interaction with people, will not eat out, so the virus will be gone and I can get back to my normal life.

Fourth stage: Depression

Days passed, then weeks, then months, but the situation is not getting any better. Philippines’ cases kept rising. At the time of this writing, we are now at 337,000 and sits in the top 20 countries with most cases.

Watching the news made me feel nervous. There were isolated cases of patients contracting COVID-19 despite not leaving their homes.

It is now seven months since Metro Manila was put in lockdown. We have eased the restrictions now down to “general community quarantine,” allowing businesses to reopen and industries to restart.

As a single mother, I feared what will happen if I contract the virus and die. There was an episode that I was overwhelmed with anxiety that I may die even before a cure is found. My parents (both are vulnerable to infection) could be the next statistics. I feared the notion of “death” and having no control over the situation; I felt helpless. I struggled to sleep at night and drown myself with work in order to cope. In my attempt to calm myself, I wrote my “last will” addressed to my sister detailing what should be done in case I die.

Final stage: Acceptance

With the help of my friends, I was able to get out of the trough of my emotions and embraced the “new normal”. Letting go of the things I can’t control and making full use of what I can is my current game plan.

I try to focus on what I can do at the moment, such as prevention – practising frequent handwashing, eating a healthy diet, and trying to avoid going out as much as possible. Keeping in touch with people that bring positivity and joy as well as enjoying my hobbies like reading books, watching anime, sewing, and writing are important to ward off the negative thoughts.

We are still far from finding a cure, but we can circumnavigate the situation. I realized that no one anticipated nor wanted this pandemic to happen. We are all victims here. It is up to us how to make our lives better amid this challenge.

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