Y2K Five-Stage Grief Cycle

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This reminder seems appropriate right now...


An oft-described pattern of getting it in terms of potential Y2K severity follows the grieving process described by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying. She posits that we all move through a five-stage grief cycle whenever we experience a severe loss or, in this case, anticipate loss through a coming crisis. (Or, I add, the loss of a gifted leader, like Ed Yourdon, from the Y2K community activist ranks).

These stages can be directly applied to all those who seriously delve into the Year 2000 computer problem--from individual searchers, to the news media, to government agencies, to corporate managers--a myriad number of global citizens.

1. DENIAL. "This can't be happening to my/our world. There must be some mistake! The programmers can fix the whole world in the next seven months!"

On first introduction to this systemic and complex topic, a typical knee-jerk reaction is No way!

If motivated to search beyond first impressions, a delver voraciously studies everything that comes to light. This stage can be exemplified by a numbing, trance-like condition, sleeplessness, disregarding hunger pangs and/or a burning desire to remain glued to the net, looking for viable answers. Total immersion acts as a form of denial; the individual stays focused in the logistics of ameliorating potential Y2K problems rather than stopping and facing the pain of admitting the world is about to change--in unexpected, unknown and uncontrollable ways. There is either a tendency to refuse to talk with others or, a frenzied attempt to immediately poll others for impressions and validation. At this stage, one copes poorly with anything deeper than the superficial Y2K issues accompanying possible future events.

2. ANGER. "It's not fair! The government/corporations/leaders/those-in-charge are all lying! Why dont they just tell the truth!"

Often many fixate for a time in this stage; their thoughts of gloom and doom can become so embedded that they actually lose friends and easily offend and alienate others with their emotional outbursts. They feel frequent waves of panic and fear. Without a sympathetic support system at home, at work, or with close friends who listen well, they often turn to an on-line support group of like-minded individuals for help in dealing with anger and confusion.

When digital interaction is positive, allowing them to emote fears and express concerns to a group of understanding people who have been there, done that, got the T-shirt, then many will calm down. They can move on, develop an action plan, start personal Y2K preparations and create more balance in their real world. Once again, they become productive. Why? Because they have taken control of personal safety on the home turf, rather than wallowing in a powerless limbo without any perceived ability to impact the global Y2K situation, over which they exert absolutely no control.

3. BARGAINING (& TAKING ACTION). "Maybe if I'm really good at learning, preparing, sharing and communicating with the neighbors, friends and family, the rest of the world will support my efforts. With dedicated focus, my community will take aggressive action, and we may be able to cope with whatever happens. Right?"

At this stage the Y2K community activist is often born.

One assumes responsibility for alerting the local populace. Unfortunately, people also make themselves personally responsible for the preparation success, or failure, of their surrounding community. By taking ownership of potential Y2K problems, their hold-a-meeting and talk-to-everyone aggressiveness has distinct similarities with missionary zeal. A calm response, in helping these self-volunteered, grassroots organizers understand what they are up against, can make or break Y2K community action.

Volunteers need to understand that other people have the right to make their own preparation choices based upon their individual circumstances, perspectives and special health needs. Hopefully, they are able to do so with accurate, timely and easily understood information ones small group is able to provide. The pitfall comes in believing it is your fault when people will not pay attention. Recognizing that one cannot single-handedly save others can have a freeing effect. However, after the first blush of Y2K preparation enthusiasm is gone, without continued encouragement, the next stage commences.

4. DEPRESSION. "It's hopeless. They will never understand, wont get ready and dont care about our combined future. Were doomed."

Where community action setbacks occur, they are a direct result of:

 A lack of local, state, federal and international government leadership
 An increase in corporate spin
 Misleading good P.R. news
 Media mishandling of the in-depth story behind knee-jerk reactions

When Time Magazine and the bulk of mainstream media typifies Y2K as Millennium Madness (Cover--January 18, 1999) as feeding the most extreme survivalist phobias, attracting only supply hoarding, gun-toting, right-wing pessimists with a bunker mentality, well, it can get pretty darned discouraging to try and encourage your community to prudently prepare.

This depressed period is a natural stage that Y2K-aware people must pass through. It sometimes lingers for an extended time (four to six months), and it is during this stage that they have the greatest possibility of ending up completely withdrawn, quitting their jobs and moving to some remote location thought to be secure. Spiritual values are challenged, as is faith in our fragile interdependent system. Because society, and especially the media, labels them crazy whackos, they many times give up on the world and retreat into a semi-permanent state of sadness.

5. ACCEPTANCE. "We have a serious common problem, with unknown impact at the local, national and international levels! We all need to help one another! Let's get together, jointly pool our efforts and experience, and create a workable community contingency plan!"

This final stage is one we have yet to reach as a nation.

We must burst past the previous four phases and the widespread government and corporate fear of:

 Public panic
 Banks runs
 Families stockpiling unrealistic amounts of food and supplies--enough so that existing supply chains experience serious shortages, or actually fail

Or else this country cannot ready itself for Y2K.

When intelligent people and public service personnel, who are grieving about our potential future, can finally pass through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression and move on to the point of acceptance, they can then experience Y2K hope, look for common solutions and begin to grow cohesive, supportive communities.

For the nation to reach the stage of awareness which ultimately leads to local acceptance of possible pending problems (or else galvanizes citizens into finding out what is going on in their area), we need Congressional assistance. We need your help, not by simply enacting new laws and regulations designed to protect businesses rather than consumers, but by proactively working to shift media perceptions about Y2K away from its focus on sensationalism toward realistic consideration of the possible problems. A greater public awareness has the potential to trigger more cooperative problem solvers who can then take balanced community actions.

We as a nation will continue to slumber until the news media become constructively engaged in this process. For this they must have access to comprehensive and trustworthy information, which only governmental sources can provide.

Allowing this public inaction to prevail is not wise. It is not healthy, nor is it the best choice for our longer-term national interests.

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), May 30, 1999


Recently there was discusion on this topic. Anyone know the links?


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), May 30, 1999.

Very interesting analysis, Diane.

IMHO, it is MUCH more complex. The country is not unified and grief is not something that tends to unify people.

Consider the family fights when someone is dying. The reality of the grieving process with Y2K, and any grieving process is that is is very individual, dynamic and fluid, (in that people move from stage to stage, and back and forth between stages, depending on personality, culture, information, emotions, etc). Because it is a complex, dynamic and individual process, people are in different stages at different times depending of the factors above.

IMHO, this is why there is so much conflict regarding Y2K. It is normal in any group grieving process. People are arguing their differing definitions of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Then throw in the fact that Y2k is already happening and will continue into 2000, and beyond, in addition to solar flares, August 21, 1999, leap year, and differing computer fixes, lack of real national or regional leadership, etc, etc.

IMHO, a good understanding of the dynamics of the grieving process, as it plays out in groups such as families, helps put all the individual dynamics and fluctuations of the folks on the forum, GI, DGI, DWGI, Pollys, Doomers, etc. etc., into perspective. What is unknown, because this is an unknowable event, is how this will play out locally, regionally or nationally.

In any case, hopefully, leads to understanding, compassion and tolerance!

-- Leslie, MSW, CRC/R (***@***.net), May 30, 1999.

MSW: Masters in Social Work

CRC/R: Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, retired

Also MRA: Masters in Rehabilitation Administration

fifteen years working in elder and disability populations

And MS: Multiple Sclerosis, medically retired (and leasurely artist/sculpturer)

-- Leslie (****@***.net), May 30, 1999.

Leslie commented:

"IMHO, this is why there is so much conflict regarding Y2K. It is normal in any group grieving process. People are arguing their differing definitions of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. "

Leslie, I beg to differ with you but IMHO the reason there os so much conflict is that there is so much LYING going on.


-- Ray (ray@totacc.com), May 30, 1999.


Lying protects denial, expresses anger, and is a way of coping with bargaining (if I lie, then it will be OK). Depression stops lying apart with reality. Acceptance transforms it..IMHO.

-- Leslie (***@***.net), May 30, 1999.

Pull the "apart" out of my last sentence. Thanks.

-- Leslie (***@***.net), May 30, 1999.

Leslie, I'm talking about LYING on the part of government and corporations. Intentional LYING intended to deceive the public. Now you can apply all of the analysis to this as you would like but it does not change a thing.


-- Ray (ray@totacc.com), May 30, 1999.

Dear Diane and Leslie,

The stages you speak of are on target. I've been all through each of them, but now I feel the depression coming on again. Don't get me wrong, my family has been preparing for a year and a half. The only major thing left to do is install our wood stove.

We are probably more prepared than most families, but I feel like there will be no end to it and nothing seems to complete the process. For example, learning to can foods, and the other how too's needed to live without electricity. (if necessary). And gee, I just like to have a ceiling fan in my kitchen, but it seems like a waste of money. We've been so practical for sooooo long, I would like to have just one fun toy. For what....6 months and then watch it rot? Guess I sound like a spoiled child. I am grateful for everything we have but the future just seems so depressing. Thank God I know the end of the story with the Lord or tomorrow would not be worth going through.

This is a real life example of someone who has accepted the problems of Y2K, gone through the stages, prepared, helping the church to prepare and yet going through one of the stages I've already dealt with. I'm sure this too shall pass, soon I hope.

With affection to my friends on the board,

-- Tess (preparingfortheworst@prayingforthebest.com), May 30, 1999.

Tess and all,

Grief is fluid and dynamic yet people can get stuck and become rigid in one stage.

On the corporate and government level, who ever controls the operation is controling the stage for that organization, and represents the stage of the organization overall. Lying is simply the way they are presently coping. Within the organization, employees are all in their individual stages, and no doubt, there is plenty of conflict under the surface, probably suppessed with threat from above. There is only so long that it CAN be supressed and all hell could break loose. IMHO, that is.

-- Leslie (***@***.net), May 30, 1999.

Thanks for the insightful post, Diane. What I'd like to add is that everyone on this forum is at one of the stages described. What's more, for some there will not necessarily be a natural progression to the next higher stage without the proper stimulus. This could take the form of an outside Y2K-caused event, such as a major corporation admitting Y2K defeat, bank runs or a major stock market drop. It could also be initiated by sufficient credible information, and projections made on it.

I find an interesting parallel between what many are going through right now in the Y2K arena as compared to what those in the so-called "patriot movement" have experienced. The similarities (and overlap) between the two camps is amazing. When presented with information concerning the Federal Reserve and fractional-reserve banking, the Bilderbergers and their plans for the rest of us, and possible hidden agendas within the gun-control movement, most people will reject it out of hand, as it is just "too far out" to fit into their view of the world. However, once the less-lunatic-fringe material is dispensed with, there remains a hard core of evidence that programs are being implemented for America, as well as the world, that are not at all in the best interests of the majority of its inhabitants. Like those who have woken up to the impending possibilities of Y2K, those who would retain their freedom in the face of forces wishing to lessen or destroy it have gone through the same sad stages. Many have remained in total denial that threats to their freedom exist, some are angry and moving (not always in a productive direction), a few have hope in a political solution, many are despondent of a solution, and the remainder have accepted that they will one day have to stand against a world ready to deem them terrorists simply because they desire their freedom.

This quote was especially interesting:

"When Time Magazine and the bulk of mainstream media typifies Y2K as Millennium Madness (Cover--January 18, 1999) as feeding the most extreme survivalist phobias, attracting only supply hoarding, gun-toting, right-wing pessimists with a bunker mentality, well, it can get pretty darned discouraging to try and encourage your community to prudently prepare." Time magazine (an avowed proponent of gun control) and much of the rest of the media have actively attempted for many years to demonize the patriot community as a bunch of red-neck klansmen who resemble in their appearance and habits nothing so much as the banjo player in "Deliverance." They must paint this sort of picture if the majority of Americans are to peacefully go along with more and more restrictions being placed on their personal freedom by the government. "Hey, you're not one of them right-wing wackos always talking about FREEDOM, are you?" they'll ask, and most, having been properly indoctrinated to believe the media's picture of a "patriot", will heartily deny it. "Well, then, you won't mind these new restrictions, will you? After all, it's for your own safety." Unless they want to be tarred with a broad brush, they'd better go meekly along with the program.

Apply this to Y2K-aware individuals. I don't think I have to recap how the media has done a hatchet job on Y2K preps in general, and certain preparers in particular. Whan a piece is presented on some family with a year's worth of food in their basement, it almost always consists of treating these folks, who are truly concerned for their family's safety, as kooks, nutcases and borderline individuals-dangerous-to-society-at-large. Many Y2Ker's are surprised when this happens, but those in the patriot movement expect it, because they know that any person or group demonstrating self-sufficiency or any other form of independence is a threat and an obstacle to socialism.


-- klm (klm@nowhre.not), May 30, 1999.

Spot on, Diane.

-- Greybear (greybear@home.com), May 30, 1999.

KLM - I liked your post, it added something I can relate to personally. This very interesting thread makes me spend too much time here but a thread like this makes it well spent. Thanks DJS and KLM

-- Looking for the change (Watching@and waiting.com), May 30, 1999.

Leslie commented:

"There is only so long that it CAN be supressed and all hell could break loose. IMHO, that is."

Leslie, this is an excellent point.


-- Ray (ray@totacc.com), May 30, 1999.


I feel the fluid nature of the process too.

Such as now. In the overall scheme of Y2K I'd say I'm at the Acceptance level. However with Ed's announcement, I feel Depressed and sad, on that specific issue.

Not sure how one explains that. Simultaneous tracks?


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), May 30, 1999.

D, you are processing two different stimuli/events. You are at the acceptance phase in ref to Y2K but, with Ed's announcement, you are now having to process this event. they are separate and discrete, or as discrete as possible within the time frames and the fact that they are affecting you.


who has a hidden Psych minor with counseling concentrations, and has been chased through a LOT of Mitchel model stuff, which doesn't apply here, but...

-- Chuck, a night driver (rienzoo@en.com), May 30, 1999.

Wow, how did I miss this post? All excellent points. Diane has shown us an interesting parallel to y2k. Grief. All grief is, is a loss of something dearly loved (like MY stereo , for example).Leslie VERY correctly points out that those ARE the stages, but don't make the mistake of expecting them to fall into order. Grieving people are "unpredictable", there sometimes appears to be no actual logic to thier thoughts....because there ISN'T any true logic...it's as individual as a finger-print. Then, klm speaks of *MY* personal "stage"! I'm waving the flag (always have, but much more since about 1992), all the while, grieving the complete loss and abandonment of my government! "You want to burn MY flag? Come on PUNK" Too many of us fear anger in this problem (as well we should). I just keep wondering, WHERE'S THE OUTRAGE? I can't even imagine how we'll make it through this, if folks don't start standing up and announcing "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it any more"! Ed's farewell speech released some of that rage stuffed down inside of me (thank you very much). I was starting to feel like an over-inflated tire. I find myself constantly needing to keep myself in check. Sometimes it's all I can do to keep from setting up a boothe in a Mall parking lot and handing out little American flags (made in Taiwan) and free bags of beans!!!! I haven't felt like this, since they handed out POW bracelets to all who ordered them in the 9th grade. (I've often noted how very, very sad it is that in the "course" of my life, following business as usual....I can't remember that man's name I wore around my wrist for two years...Christ...where did it go? How could I have lost it? When did it happen?)THAT'S how I feel about my country. Where did it go? How could I have lost it? When did it happen? Well, THE BUCK STOPS HERE, PEOPLE. I WILL find it! I WON'T loose it again! And I'll make DAMN sure it never happens again as long as I'm "sucking air"! Anyway....keep those Political, military, Government posts coming, folks....we're past the beans and rice stage here. Those who aren't prepared, simply won't matter any longer. Tuck a copy of THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA into your bug-out bags, 'cause baby, you're gonna need it! And as a side note to any "bleeding heart, whinning Liberals" out there....just remember...I'm a 40 year old female hairdresser with kids and NOT a "right-wing wacko"! Be careful, you never can tell WHO'S willing to die for thier country, can you now?

-- Will continue (farming@home.com), May 31, 1999.


Not all grief is the same and not all "liberals" are either.

I'd say my heart bleeds... I'm a liberal tending more to the environmentalist side... I'm not whining... I support responsible business and entrepreneurism... I really don't understand how politicians put party first then the rest of us (maybe)... and I have a copy of the Constitution which I need to place in the bug-out-bag.

Freedom is not one-size-fits-all, just like grief or Y2K.

Viva la differance!

Diane, still feeling sad

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), May 31, 1999.

Vladimir Bakik was the man's name on the POW/MIA bracelet that I wore in the 9th grade. I will always remember, though I may have not spelled his last name correctly.

This brought up a weird thought, but I can imagine an emotional parallel of wearing a Y2k bracelet with the name of some unfortunate soul who died in vain...

-- flora (***.__@_._), May 31, 1999.

Thanks Diane. You are absolutely on target there. You've just pointed out the fact that labels stink. Please don't misunderstand me. I spent a large portion of my younger years coming from the "Liberal" point of view. I have for some time now, leaned much farther to the right, BUT, I'm a registered independent. Why? Because there is an unacceptable, overabundance of "clueless" individuals in BOTH parties...and in my view, very, very few who honestly have this country's best interests in mind. The "division" is a very thin, tiny line for many of us. It's time to start thinking of ourselves as Americans FIRST, and ONLY. The current government has done more to divide us all up and create labels and prejudice, than the citizens have in my view. Thanks little buddy for bringing it up. From "the tree-hugger who leans towards the right"

-- Will continue (farming@home.com), May 31, 1999.

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