The Grief Cycle and the Change Curve
Sabine Hoffmeister M.Sc. Psych
In these times of Corona and a collective “affectedness” I like to introduce you to the “Change Curve.” A very useful tool - originally developed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross to explain the 5 stages of the grieving process.
There are a lot of curves out there based on this process from Elizabeth Kübler Ross a Swiss-American psychiatrist in 1969 in her book “death and dying”. And this is still relevant – even more relevant in these times.
When my first husband died in 1992, I adapted the process to include 7 phases based on the grief curve. They worked best for me and for a lot of my clients, too – to successfully go through bad times, challenging times or real crisis and to come back even more grown and mature than before.
My personal approach is to use good instruments and tools to serve my customers as best as I can. Development is an essential process cause after a crisis nothing stays the same.
The important thing is to understand and know how it can help you in the process. It is not about right or wrong - cause this will be evaluated in retrospective.
The seven-phase Change Curve I adapted from the Kübler-Ross model is made up of the following phases: shock, denial, realization, emotional acceptance, trial and error, insights, and integration.
The important thing to remember for your own personal situation is that you may not move through these phases the same way another person does. You may take longer or shorter amounts of time in these different phases, but you have to go through them. You might be fast in the beginning and then slow down or feel unable to cope with it at certain stages or vice versa. That depends on how much you are affected and how experienced you are in adapting to change. And of course if you are willing to go through this. Real Change happens because people want something really badly or if they have so much pain that they have to change. In this case the third factor comes into place- there is a necessity because there is a crisis. Not every change process is a crisis but every crisis is a change process. And to come out of this, the way is to go through and there is no short cut.
In this case of Corona - it is a real big thing because it is a global movement - we all go through this together. We are at different stages globally – depending on where you live on the planet and how you personally deal with this.
But we all have to cope with it and hopefully get through it as fast as we can. And in the End there will be a “new normal” – there will be changes made, developments, innovations and a lot of progress in different fields – and inside ourselves.
You decide whether you want to be a part of it or if you just sit here and wait till life gets easier.
As a leader or as a follower/coworker – as a human being - “just” being involved - in the beginning and through the whole process! it is about information and communication. Putting people first is essential and especially needed during crisis. You cannot overcommunicate with your people at these times if you do it from your heart – especially as they work from home. We have to cope with “physical distancing” but should be socially/ emotionally connected. Check-in regularly on a weekly or daily basis whatever is good for you and your team.
People want to know what is going on, want to get relevant information, good sources and they need people who talk about it wisely, responsive and responsible. Letting people alone with something like
this means they all go to social media and there the fear and the madness seems to even spread faster than the virus itself. Align the energy of your people towards your goals.
Second phase is about guidance and direction – giving guidance, navigating through this – what started even earlier via communication and information. You always guide/ influence people if you are a leader and the goal is to lead through not only in crisis to come out of this - hopefully – stronger and better.
Use this instrument to go through and give guidance.
The phases described above are a good indicator for what is going on in these different phases.
This is just a brief instruction how to act as a leader:
1. Phase Shock – people need to get out of this fast, in general concerning the corona crisis we can say that we are through this but there can be new curves starting as soon as we talk about the impact and as soon as we have “new shocking” news.
“yes it is like it is - and now let us find ways to deal with it…….”
Gather info, give info – talk to people – be active, responsive, give them time to realize, help them out and move to realization
2. Denial – feels better in terms of competence – I ignore it - so I do not have to deal with it
Or people downplay it – “it is not such a big problem, it will not hurt us, it will not affect us….” like a lot of politicians did in the beginning – gives you a better feeling of being competent - the idea that it might pass.
Profound Information is needed and a “what if scenario” has to be made up.
3. Realization with anger, frustration, fear
“Wow it can affect us all- it is spreading, we have to deal with this.”
“I had different plans – the year started great, could have been the best year ever….”
“Why me, why us?” “there is no toiletpaper anymore”
Gather the facts, make a plan, put things in perspective, show people you take care of this, be authentic, answer questions, do Q+A sessions, tell the truth - you know what you know so far – let them be part of that.
4. Emotional acceptance – grief, loss, letting go
There are things that are not possible anymore - like meeting friends, colleagues, having one on one conversations in person, meeting people around the world. Not having access to those things anymore – losing your routine, your set up for the day, like doing sports or meeting people.
A grief about losing the “old normal” – even if it was not a great life in all aspects- now there are restrictions that dominate us. And we know we have to adapt and change.
And on top we will be confronted with reduced work time, financial loss, financial breakdowns etc…. It is about existence and worst case losing beloved ones to the virus, people who fight death or are surrounded by illness and death.
Letting go of stability, safety and going into an uncertain future. The only way to go through is to accept what you cannot change and create what is in your influence.
Accept what is and go through and let go. If you accept and let go of some beloved routines, habits, even beliefs, or even people, you can open up for the future. And show respect and heart for those who are really struggling while most of us are still complaining on a high level. VUCA – the world is uncertain and lots of things are unpredictable. Now this is reality and we have to deal with it.
5. Try and error
This is the way out and up. Turning a crisis into chances and opportunities. Because they are there. If plan A does not work, try plan B. Be flexible, adaptive, experiment, give things a try, develop, learn and enhance. We were forced into dealing with this and now new things can happen in a vast speed because there is a necessity for change.
Try new things, learn, grow
Make a decision to be part of the new world and act accordingly.
Act, react, develop, feedback, adapt – act, react, develop, feedback, adapt……… and invent and implement the best.
7. Integration Phase – the “new normal – new better hopefully” –
Lessons learnt - celebrate – and off to the next crisis - live strong and faithfully - Go!
Hope this was informative and helpful to move successfully through the crisis – if you are interested to learn more come to our online workshops on leading people, leading yourself, change management and leading virtual teams or just let me know how I can support you. There we can go into detail, address all your issues concerning leadership in these times and we will give pragmatic advice for leaders.
Let us know if you have questions and need/want support in speeding up the process.
Reaching out to you and hugging you from a distance. Stay healthy and strong!