Angela Blanchard
3 min readMay 22, 2020



(We’re sick of this damn virus)

In the aftermath of disaster there are discernible patterns — stages of thought, behavior and emotions. Fifteen Years ago I began to map them. To document — from the experiences of people who’d faced the unthinkable — those patterns and stages. You can read some of what I’ve written about them on my website. This is not a plug. I’m just trying to avoid writing it all over again here.

The earliest stage is Survival. We seek safety — higher ground. If we’re helping it looks like rescue. Keeping people alive. Then we move into Sanctuary/Shelter— seeking a place where we can rest, find those we love, and make sure they’re okay as well. Meeting basic needs is our focus at this stage.

A heavy pause follows: Limbo — we are suspended trying to absorb the enormity of what’s happened. From our shrunken/narrow field of vision we try to come to terms with the scale and scope of catastrophe. It’s exhausting living in a kind of suspended existence. Help doesn’t really help if it comes with expectations of movement. We can’t move. We’re just holding our breath. Without the energy to even to be angry or sad. Limbo is a necessary stage. Though people in this stage are often chastised to “get moving” this suspended state is essential.

Once we believe we’ve grasped the situation, we create expectations of what we ought to tackle, then we set out to restart our lives. Heading out to a new reality with our attitudes and expectations.

All that comes to is frustration, pain and anger. Chaos and Upheaval. Like a limb that’s been asleep, circulation starts again and it’s painful.

Everything that was simple and easy before the catastrophe is now difficult. Whatever was difficult is now impossible.

And it must be someone else’s fault because you’re doing all you can. You’re determined. You’re heroic and noble. You’re responsible. You’re not helpless. And it would be going well if not for those “other folks” thwarting your efforts. And the help? Forget that. It all went to “other people” so it’s harder for you than it is for them.

This is the stage made for blame and resentment. Everything’s changed and though you believed you were ready for it — prepared to deal with it— you’re not. You’re still operating on predisaster assumptions. Can’t help it.

And your neighbors (not you — you’re a paragon of kindness, generosity and acceptance), those “other people” are awful. Acting out. Pitching fits.

Or they’re wimps. Cowering in the face of what you’re sure you can conquer with your determination. Toughness.

You have names for everyone not handling this like you are. Ugly names you shout or mutter.

I hate to tell you — we’re all a bit crazy right now and our degree of insanity is the distance between our expectations and what’s actually possible — our perception versus what’s actually occurring.

We will improve in our ability to live with and through this Covid19 disaster/aftermath. But not right now. Right now we are still coming to terms with what’s here for good— and what’s gone forever.

Our next milestone is a fork in the road. ACCEPTANCE/RESIGNATION.

Acceptance: We can’t rush it because we’re still learning what must be accepted as changed versus what we can reclaim from our old way of living and working. Some of us will choose to accept the changes and losses in our lives — and eventually do so with a measure of grace, humor, even tenderness toward ourselves and others.

Some of us will go the path of resignation. Grumpy and miserable, pissed and pitiful, we will regale others with tales of suffering and woe as if we’d been singled out especially for hardship.

There are days when we will be both of these people — accepting, gracious, grateful and gentle with ourselves and others and then — that one more thing — and we snap into enough is enough.

More about this fork in the road later.

I wrote this for me and maybe for you too.

Thank you to my son Victor Blanchard for this image — Covid19 response



Angela Blanchard

Out to Change the World. Born for Storms. Senior Fellow Watson Institute Brown University President Emerita BakerRipley @cajunangela