Pandemic Planning: Transitions, Endings, and New Beginnings
[This article first appeared on the Natural Investments Blog.]
Most of us have experienced important disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of publication, more than 128,000 Americans have died from the illness, leaving entire communities in mourning. Shut-downs and quarantine orders have devastated the economies of entire cities. Nearly everyone—even the most privileged—have had to make major changes to their daily lives.
With the pandemic still in full force, a national response to the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans who lost their lives to institutionalized racial violence has swept across the nation and even the world. The tumultuous events of spring have created one disruption after another. Although disruption can be painful, endings create space for change.
The Financial Transitionist Institute are experts on transition and life changes, usually framed within a context of our money life. It applies to the experience of personal change and societal change, as in the case of this pandemic.
Financial transitions are often precipitated by difficult, life-changing events—like the death of a loved one, divorce, selling a business, or retiring. In any such transition, people often experience four phases: anticipation, ending, passage, and eventually a new normal.
When we know a change is coming, we go through a stage of anticipation and perhaps worry.
The disruption occurs, and life as we know it has changed. There is no going back.
With our recent transitions, there was little to no anticipation. We moved suddenly into a phase of transition filled with endings, the most tragic, of course, being the end of life on a massive scale. We went into lockdown, which meant an end to a vital part of our identities as social beings: no more family gatherings, weddings, funerals, or community events. We felt the loss of life’s daily pleasures, as we stopped going to restaurants and community gatherings. We continue to be in this ending phase––the most uncomfortable phase––and will likely remain here for another several months.
Our society wants to expedite the ending phase, to move quickly through the discomfort of not knowing. However, this ending phase provides an opportunity for a deeper evaluation of what is most important to us and planning concrete steps to align our lives with these things. The loss of old habits and routines creates space, and that space can be challenging.
Grief and loss often follow. It can be helpful to pinpoint the few things that are urgent and focus on those. Otherwise, this is a time to gather information, simplify, reconnect with what is most important to us, and reach clarity before making big changes or decisions.
In this stage, possibility is accompanied by fear and uncertainty about what’s to come. Passage is the longest stage and can often take years. We begin to experience an awakening as the shift begins, even for those who experience fatigue or a lack of focus. One of the most important things to do during the passage is to seek out support, like peer support. Within the context of COVID-19, parents working from home, teachers conducting remote classes, or families who have loved ones in a nursing facility can share valuable perspectives with each other.
In this time, a new reality takes hold. After we’ve integrated changes from our transition, we are equipped to face this reality with a new identity, perspective, and even resilience.
Today, we have an opportunity to shape change at a personal level, in our communities, and the bigger world. Doing so with compassion and focus will require us to seek out support so that we can navigate this ending toward a hopeful new beginning.