stages of grief: peace corps edition

girlwithgumption peace corps senegal, washington state, usa

Stage One – Denial
This stage manifests itself by volunteers insisting that they feel “fine.” They haven’t yet acknowledged that their service is over. They may still refer to themselves as a “PCV” (Peace Corps Volunteer) instead of a “RPCV” (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer). They call their village of service regularly and insist that their local language skills are not declining. Many volunteers prolong this stage indefinitely by embarking on close of service journeys to destinations even Lonely Planet has failed to cover in their Shoestring Guides.

Stage Two – Anger
Once volunteers have accepted that their service is in fact finished, they often channel their overwhelming feelings of guilt and loss into anger. Volunteers in this stage can often be heard crying, “Why me? It’s not fair!” or “Why did this happen to me?”

Stage 3 – Bargaining
At this point many volunteers start to believe that a return to the Peace Corps would solve all their problems. Many may find themselves negotiating with their former Country Directors for Peace Corps staff positions or Peace Corps Response assignments. Volunteers fruitlessly attempt to find a way to re-create their original Peace Corps experience—except vowing to be a “better” or “more effective” volunteer this time around.

Stage 4 – Depression
During the fourth stage the volunteer begins to understand the certainty of the end of their Peace Corps service. Because of this many volunteers may disconnect from the world and people around them. Phone calls to their country of service will occur less frequently. Their lives will revolve around marathons of the television shows Hoarders and Top Chef. Volunteers will spend most of their time grieving the end of their service.

Stage 5 – Acceptance
After grieving the end of their service, volunteers can finally move on and accept their new reality. They reassure themselves that, “It’s going to be okay.” Or “I can’t go back, I may as well move on.” Volunteers fall into their previous lives and their Peace Corps experience becomes something brought up only in drunken bar conversation.