May 10, 2022
By Betty Ann Rutledge
Coordinator of Volunteers, Outreach & Training,Community
Hospice Program & Friendly Visiting
I’ve worked in the field of community-based healthcare, death, dying and bereavement for almost 30 years. I learned a lot about grief & resiliency; from the death of my mom when I was a young adult to numerous friends, colleagues, volunteers and clients who died of HIV in the 90s. When COVID-19 hit, many of us who lived and worked through the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis felt an uneasy familiarity with the world as we know it turning upside down.
Many of you are now collectively experiencing a global disruption of norms the likes of which you’ve never before experienced. In grief theory, it’s called the shattering of the assumptive world. Even if it hasn’t been a loss due to death, we have all been experiencing different kinds of losses. The world as we know it has been irrevocably changed.
It’s traumatic and disruptive; you may have heard people lately talking about the collective trauma responses we are having – the flight, flight or freeze phenomenon. The constant living with uncertainty and stress in our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits is wreaking havoc on our systems. This is also true about the experience of grief. And just like we all grieve uniquely, we will all have our individual responses to this shattering experience of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bereaved people, isolated seniors, folks who are marginalized and those used to being “helpers” may be feeling an additional layer of stress, anxiety and grief at this time. Usual outlets which give so many a sense of meaning and purpose have been curtailed: your volunteer and community work suspended, not being able to gather with friends/family in the same way and even connecting with colleagues at work or school will have changed dramatically. So I invite you to:
- Be gentle with yourself: this is a strange and confusing time for all of us and we are doing our best to figure out how to live into this new normal
- Slow down and take lots of deep breaths: being grounded is so important in the midst of constant change and uncertainty
- Let yourself feel/be: it’s okay to have a wide range of thoughts and emotions, try to embrace them with the same compassion you would extend to others who are struggling
- Practice mindfulness: present moment awareness is needed now more than ever when none of us knows from each day to the next what the future will bring.
Finally, seek beauty every day. Focusing on gratitude is a great counter-balance to the challenges we are now all facing. Stay safe. Take care of yourselves and each other.
To hear more from Betty Ann, go to her webinar:
When Helpers Feel Helpless youtu.be/T1iupEmkN6U
The webinar was originally geared towards frontline workers and volunteers in both the Hospice and HIV/AIDS sectors, but would be relevant for anyone who sees themselves in a “helping” role. The webinar offers:
- Some context for why people may be feeling helpless
- A reframe of how to think about roles
- 3 concrete tips for learning to live into the new normal