The 5 Stages of Grief: Pandemic Version

October 22, 2020


2020 has us all grieving due to the unfortunate circumstances we’ve been put in. The coronavirus pandemic has consumed our lives, as headlines about the pandemic have become ubiquitous. In fact, the grief the world is experiencing can be expressed in 5 stages just like any single human experiencing grief.

In December 2019, the first outbreak of coronavirus was made known worldwide. Several countries were in stage 1, in denial, that the virus was a threat.

Thereafter, stage 2 included tides of anger that swept across the world. Those tensions manifested into xenophobic accusations that China was responsible for the outbreak. While the Chinese government could be involved in spreading the virus, Chinese people or anyone who “looked Chinese” were at risk of being discriminated against.

In terms of stage 3, people began bargaining. Since the virus hit different parts of the world, the “bargaining” trend was visible at different times. In Singapore, my home country, droves of people emptied out supermarkets fearing stay-at-home orders; they anticipated common household goods would be in higher demand. We experienced the same trend here in the US, as toilet paper and hand sanitizer became a hot commodity. Hoarding groceries could limit the impact of the pandemic, right? Wrong.

Now that brings us to our current stage, stage 4: the long depression. With a significant number of coronavirus cases in almost every country and the end of the pandemic nowhere near in sight, the world is depressed. While some have swiftly adapted to a new way of living, others have suffered economically and mentally. Businesses have closed, jobs have been lost, and economies have tanked. Regarding mental health, the current circumstances have rendered an increase in fear, anxiety, and stress.

What about stage 5? Could we eventually reach acceptance? The answer to that question might actually be found in my tiny island home country of Singapore. Compared to the US, the Singapore government took a different approach in tackling the pandemic. In fact, a “different approach” is quite an understatement, as some of the laws implemented in Singapore might seem unconstitutional here.

So, what did Singapore do? Singapore enforced a rigorous stay-at-home order, a mandatory mask-wearing policy, QR code contact tracing, required quarantines for Singaporeans flying into the country, and a temporary ban on foreigners entering the country. The government divided the rigor of these policies into several phases.

When the pandemic was at its worst in Singapore, you legally could not leave your home for purposes other than absolute necessities like commuting to work or buying groceries. Thereafter, the government implemented ‘Phase One.’ Besides supermarkets, manufacturing companies, some offices, and hairdressers, to name a few, most places were still closed. As the situation slightly improved, restaurants opened up to dine-in while socially distanced in Phase Two.


Singapore enforced a rigorous stay-at-home order, a mandatory mask-wearing policy, QR code contact tracing, required quarantines for Singaporeans flying into the country, and a temporary ban on foreigners entering the country.”


Currently, in Singapore, it is still legally mandatory to wear face masks anywhere outside your home, citizens still need to scan a QR code at any place they enter or exit, and two weeks of quarantine is still required for those flying in. On a side note, when I flew into Singapore, I was quarantined at a 5-star hotel sponsored by the government. This was arguably my favorite part of the summer; I didn’t mind being spoiled for the sake of safety.

Despite Singapore being relatively close to eradicating the coronavirus within its bounds, it hasn’t changed many of its initial safety laws. Therefore, I think the perpetual stringent policies have led to a dramatic decrease in active coronavirus cases. However, those policies have also created a “new normal” in Singapore. Everyone looks identical wearing a mask, everyone does the same thing while entering and exiting places… people seem like they’re used to following the rules. It’s apparent that Singapore is reaching the acceptance stage of grief, but will the US ever accept its new circumstances?

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    Deepa SureshOct 31, 2020 at 3:02 am

    Hi Nakul, Really enjoyed reading your style of writing. What you have written is the bitter truth & different stages well classified.
    Well done. Look forward to your next one !
    Be safe.