President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez is battling for his life. According to the Washington Post published today, three out of five Venezuelans believe that he will recover. “Chavez hasn’t spoken or been seen since before his fourth operation in Cuba on Dec. 11 for an unspecified cancer in the pelvic area. The government says he has been breathing with the help of a tracheal tube after surviving a serious respiratory infection. It says Chavez returned on Feb. 18 and is at a military hospital in Caracas for continued treatment for “respiratory insufficiency.” Even though doctors who are not involved with his direct care speculate that what he is receiving is palliative care, most Venezuelans believe he is on the mend.
The Washington Post goes on to say, “Luis Vicente Leon, chief of the Datanalisis polling firm said nearly 58 percent of Venezuelans believe Chavez will recover while about 30 percent believe he will not return to power and 12.5 percent say they don’t know what will happen. One percent, meanwhile, believe Chavez was never sick…He said he thought the poll reflected people’s desire not to believe the worst about someone who is dear to them, just as people resist accepting that a close relative might be dying.”
The president has undergone surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments since June 2011, when he first announced his cancer diagnosis. He hasn’t specified the type of cancer or the exact location in his pelvic region where his tumors have been removed. On Feb. 15, the government released four photographs of Chavez lying in a bed in Cuba with his two daughters by his side. They were the only images of him published since early December.
The people of Venezuela are close to their president. They cannot accept Chavez is dying. This is a common symptom of grief, first theorized by psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Kubler-Ross’s monumental work on the five stages of grief has found its way into many applications today such as cancer survivor therapy.
The Venezuelan people are in denial; they do not want to accept that Chavez will die. Denial which is the first stage of grief helps us to survive the loss. “In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. We try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.”
It will take a long time for the Venezuela to heal but first they must accept the inevitable.