Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a Swiss-American psychiatrist who developed a stage-model of grieving, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The original model was developed in the 1960’s and over time, she refined it, noting that not everyone goes through the stages and that further, the stages are not in sequence, and finally, a person can be in a stage more than once during a grief process. A wisdom that comes with life experience is that grief can at times, span over decades.

Much has been written about grief in the breast cancer community, for example, whether cancer is a “gift”, whether one can “move on” from grief, whether cancer can be a “battle”, and whether cancer is simply, 100% bad, pitch dark without the tiniest sliver of light. I propose that the experience of having cancer can be all of these things, not to all people, but sometimes, even to the same person, at different times. One problem occurs when someone tries to define grief for another. Another problem is when the grief state interferes with important treatment decisions, for example, people who believe that they do not need cancer treatment other than positive thinking or dietary changes. Maybe they are incapacitated by fear and depression and don’t take any action at all. Humans are social animals. We depend on each other emotionally and instrumentally. We don’t want a loved one to die through unclear thinking even if the grief, the denial, the anger, the depression, are understandable.

2020 has left a great many in the world in grief about the COVID-19 pandemic. Getting the disease involves loss as does trying to prevent the disease. We’ve lost people, jobs, contact with friends and family, and the freedom to travel. In the U.S., we have a president with questionable legitimacy, unquestionable incompetence in leadership in respect to the pandemic, clear hatred for oppressed groups, who has made repeated statements that he may not leave office, if defeated by former Vice-President Biden in the next presidential election, which occurs in less than two months.

The pandemic has impacted the safety of voting in-person. For those of you outside of the U.S., states have different laws about how voting happens. In my state, for example, voting is done by sending ballots to the county election office through the mail or through secure ballot boxes. Other states allow in-person, by mail, or early voting options. Some states allow ballots to be mailed but not put in ballot boxes. The president is trying to undermine the safety of the U.S. Postal Service by trying to 1) get rid of it (it is part of Constitution so hard to pull off), 2) make it dysfunctional, 3) telling everyone that mail-in voting is fraudulent, though that’s the way he and his family vote, and 4) telling people to vote by mail and also in-person, which actually is a felony a) to tell people to do that and b) to attempt to vote twice.

Meanwhile, and not unrelated, between late May and the end of August, there have been nearly 8,000 demonstrations related to the Black Lives Matter movement in this country, not counting ones that have been held in other nations. Although by last credible estimates, 93% of these protests have been non-violent, the president and his supporters have painted a picture of mayhem in Democratic-majority cities, including my own, Seattle, WA. And oh yeah, the climate crisis did not stop during this time. There have been wildfires, severe weather crises, all the while, especially during the summer.

We are all grieving, too. This election has potentially dire consequences and not everyone agrees as to what candidate’s election would create those dire consequences. We are united as a nation, however, that our way of life will be lost, if our desired candidate loses.

Up is down. Down is up. The U.S. is a shit show and this shit has stages, too. “My shit doesn’t stink” is denial. “Shit storm” is anger. “My life is shit” is depression. “Shit got real” is acceptance.

After Dr. Kubler-Ross died, David Kessler, also a grief expert, colleague and friend, released the book they had co-authored together, On Grief and Grieving. In 2019, he published a book on the 6th stage of grief, meaning.

Meaning is made. Meaning is constructed and re-constructive. Meaning is “the shit”. Speaking for myself, my life, even now, has something beyond the the sadness, the fear, the pain, the anger, and the suffering. My life has the meaning of now, it has the meaning of my breath, and it has the meaning of my determination. It has action. I heard the singer and actor Janelle Monae interviewed recently. She was asked if she had hope. “I have action. Action is my love language.”

May action be your love language as well as mine.