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Grief during this pandemic world

Hi friends. It’s been a while. I’m sorry to say that life got the better of me, and I wasn’t feeling inspired. I had started a blog post last week, but that one didn’t feel quite right either. But last night, I was on a Zoom call with some amazing OT practitioners and students and I felt inspired again. So here we go.

Let’s back up to when life felt “normal”. Three weeks ago, at the beginning of March, was Christmas for my husband and I. This year for Christmas, we had each decided to gift one another an experience to spend time together at a later time than just one gift on Christmas. Three weeks ago, that was when our gifts came to fruition. For me, it was seeing my all time favorite author Jodi Picoult, in person! I was such a fan girl!! She signed two of my books!! *see picture of my excitement!* I have read every single one of her books. She spoke about her writing process for her two most recent books, which I adore and highly recommend (Small Great Things, and A Spark of Light).

Then that same weekend, on Sunday, I took my husband and I to go to see our favorite band Rend Collective in concert *again, cue the fan-girl moments! It was a late night, and made for a rough Monday morning at work, but it was totally worth it!

Now, during both of these events, the epidemic with COVID1-9 was going on, it just wasn’t on everyone’s radar like it is now. I mean, it was but it wasn’t. During the event with Jodi Picoult, she mentioned that all of her author friends were asking about what their protocol was while they were out speaking (meaning no hand shakes or hugs). Talk about disappointment a little when I knew I would not be able to touch my favorite author for a hand shake. And when we went to that concert, we weren’t really aware of the impact that COVID-19 was having in the US or would have. It seems crazy to think that just three weeks ago, life was okay. We could go out to get ice cream, we could meet up with friends, and invite people over, and on and on. I was planning to go on a trip to Boston for a conference full of OT’s that I know and love through meeting online that I was going to meet in real life! Then the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) conference got cancelled.

And then everything seemed to change at once. I don’t think right now I can accurately put into words all the changes that have occurred in order (because all the days are blurring together), but I’ll share a little of my experience. I work in a skilled nursing facility, so I work with the most vulnerable population that could be affected by this virus. So about 2 weeks ago, we had a visitor limitation policy, not super strict, but not easy either. Now, we have a strict no visitor policy. No outside family or people entering the building. I have been heartbroken to see family members standing outside loved ones windows to talk to them. As for employees, we have had to fill out a screen form and get our temperatures taken every day when we enter for the better part of the last 2 weeks. Recently, we have had to have our temperatures taken when we leave the building as well. Let me tell you how nerve wracking that is. As the only OT in the building, if I were to have my temperature be 100.4 or above, who would take care of my patients? And then on the flip side, this small voice in my head says “what if I’m a carrier?”. I can’t know for sure. I may not ever know. And I wash my hands like crazy, both at work and at home. And wiping down surfaces, both at work and at home. I have always taken hand washing pretty seriously, but now I’m on overdrive. Like we all are. But really, does anyone else stop and wonder, when you see empty aisle’s of soap and hand sanitizer “was no one washing their hands before this?!” That’s what I’m thinking!

Why is it that when something bad happens, then we change our ways? Why is it that we wait until the last possible second to go “maybe I should do something differently?”. I can’t answer that, but it’s something to think about. Something to ponder, and something I have been wondering.

Now, let’s get to the spiritual stuff. I mean, this is OT and church, right? If you have made it this far, I commend you. And I hope you’ll keep reading with me for a bit. So 3 weeks ago, we worshiped in our own church. Then our governor in Ohio said that no gathering of 100 (I think that was first) but then it shrunk to 50 (about how many we have at our church on a Sunday) and then down to no more than 10. So my husband, and many other pastors we know in our state and around the country, had to switch the way they do ministry very quickly. Our church, well our church isn’t set up for online worship. We don’t normally live stream our services on Sunday mornings like a larger church, and we don’t have online giving. So my husband has had to adapt quickly to recording and posting his sermon, to a Facebook live of a service from our kitchen table. Talk about change! We have a Zoom account for the church to host meetings, prayer, and small groups and have been working on online giving. Just small steps in this movement. It makes me feel more like the early church, meeting in “secret”, or meeting just in homes to surround each other with love and care. But it feels so hard to that do from a distance. How can we really be community to one another when we can’t meet in person? How can we share our gifts and talents when we don’t meet in the same building? That’s what we are all figuring out right now. I have been blessed and amazed by the way people have been using their gifts for good in this world despite not worshiping together in the same building.

I say all this to say, I am grieving. I am grieving the loss of not being able to connect with my friends. Grieving the loss of not being able to attend the AOTA conference and meet up with some amazing OT’s. To learn and grow as new practitioner. And so much more that is so hard to put into wards right now.

Grief. We are all feeling it right now, whether it’s the loss of job, the decrease in hours, the uncertainty of the future, loneliness from not being to meet up with friends. And we have all had to go through these stages of grief super quickly. Like, we don’t even have time to think about it. I was listening to a podcast yesterday and the guest was saying it’s important to check in with ourselves. Now, my personality type is wired to help others before I help myself. This leads to burnout, stress, and many tears (which I’ve had a few during this time). But I am finding more and more that I need to check in with myself. So I’m going to offer something easy you can do.

Turn inward, take a deep breath, and ask yourself “how are you doing?”. Once you have identified that feeling, take another deep breath in and out, and ask yourself, “where do I feel this in my body?”. This is what gets me! Once I can say where I feel it in my body, it makes it more tangible and real. It means that I can place my hand on that part of my body and breath into that space. It allows me space to breath and begin to heal. Now this is not perfect, but it’s a start. A start towards healing of self, of feeling a little more whole again. Of just allowing ourselves the chance to breathe, to feel our emotions, and know that it’s okay to have these feelings. You are not a bad person if you feel this way. You are not a bad health care professional if you come home exhausted and tired from helping others all day. You are not a bad person if you are grieving because you lost your job. You are allowed and need to feel these feelings to begin to heal, even if it’s just for one breath a day.

I want to leave with you with a few quotes to help you get through this crazy time. The first is a verse from scripture. I am not one of those people who use scripture as the end all, be all answer. I offer it in a state of love, hope, and light. This is a dark time, so we all need a little bit more light in our hearts and minds.

Romans 8:38-39 (the NIV translation)

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

May you know that there is love here in this dark world. Know that you can, and are, a place of love and light right now, wherever you find yourself: at work or sheltering in place. Love can help calm our fears and worries.

And here’s one more from a book I am reading (Untamed by Glennon Doyle), I think I’m going to make a sign of this for my house. “No fear in. No fear out. Only love in. Only love out.”

May you go out in love, wherever you work, whether it’s a home or on the front lines (hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, truck drivers, grocery store workers, restaurant carry-out workers, custodians and janitorial staff in these buildings and more), may you go out knowing you are loved and you are sharing love.

All my love, peace, and hand washing grace to you.

Lauren 🙂

-one of many who are working and figuring out this new normal.

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