Stages of Grief: The Sandy Edition
Lest you think we are obsessed with Sandy, and its dire aftermath, let me assure you that we are. Obsession is the final stage reached before the electric power is restored, and with it, our normal lives. For those of us just north of NYC, this is the third time in just over a year that we have had a weather wipe-out and lost all of our utilities. We now recognize obsession as one of the classic and final stages of grief (storm-wise) as we try to will the Con Edison trucks to head to our neighborhoods.
Stages of grief during Sandy
Anticipation. How big and how bad are the only questions unanswered. Preparation begins and with it a frenetic blur of activity. Anticipation is the nexus where dread and excitement cross paths. Soon, though, there is just dread. Will the power go out? Will there be work or school, property damage or worse? It is the, “or worse” that takes us straight into the next stage.
Fear. It descends with the darkness as the wind, snow, ice or rain lash at our windows and doors. Even the bravest among us realizes the sheer destructive power of Mother Nature and fears her wrath. The churning fury outside seems to last longer and sound worse than anyone dared imagine.
Relief. And then the worst is over and there are floods of relief. There will be terrible, heartbreaking stories, and even the least religious in our midst will know that grace and good fortune have shone upon us. We are overcome with gratitude, for our safety, for the morning sunshine, for our homes and the new day.
The roads are blocked and trees and power lines strewn about like a toddler’s toys. Discovering our little world remade, helping a neighbor and locating a cup of coffee are, for a few hours, an adventure. Finding out where the power works and what is the most optimistic timetable for repairs, for a moment, all seem novel.
Frustration. But this will not last and soon, we realize the day is lost, or maybe a few days or the week. Nothing is going to happen. Plans are changed then cancelled, productivity grinds to a halt. It is an irritation and then an annoyance. Giving into nothingness is not easy.
Day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4: no longer amusing. Con Ed says Monday but a neighbor saw them working on the power lines. There is no gas and firewood stores are low. The night-time temperatures are in the 30’s. Day 5, day 6 tempers fray, kids are bored, adults fed up as frustration and helplessness descend Sitting in Starbucks for Wi-Fi, obsessing over the Con Ed site. Maybe the school district has more up-to-date information or the Patch. We wake up thinking today will be The Day.
Eventually, at an unexpected time, random lights around the house go on, often in the closet where we never overcame our instinct of reaching for the switch. Perhaps the TV shakes off its hibernation. Soon we take the deep cleansing breath and revisit relief, this time for good.
We are gradually getting our lives back to normal but for many in our area the struggle is desperate and the grief is immense.