My last writing was on how to stay grounded in the midst of a difficult election cycle.
This time I wish to turn my attention to one particular issue: how to stay grounded and centered in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. One million deaths worldwide. Masks everywhere you turn. Social isolation. Schools deciding how and when to re-open.
2020 has befriended few of us. Most of us long for a new start.
But, here we are. As a hospital chaplain, I know the thing that most surprises my patients and the families of my patients. “What do we do now?” “What happens next?” And when a plan has not been set, a post-mortem plan, clear and precise, a great deal of pain ensues.
There are two especially disorienting moments at the end of life, especially if tough conversations have not taken place. The first is related to how much treatment to pursue, how and when to end life support measures, when to go to hospice and which one to pick. These are important conversations to have and there are many websites and forms that can help you navigate those tough conversations. Five Wishes is especially helpful.
At my particular hospital, every time there is a death, we give out a bereavement booklet, with funeral home information and a checklist of next steps. The booklet includes grief groups in town where folks can turn for support.
Many, though, at the time of death find themselves confused and unsure how to proceed. In a time of deep grief, most of us have to make big decisions. To say it is sometimes heartbreaking to watch families flounder and try to find their footing is understating it. I am glad to accompany those families as a chaplain in their time of need.
If you are a recent survivor, or if you simply want to think ahead, I recommend a website that my friend Kat Reed wrote, out of her experience of being blindsided when her parents died. It is called: Helping Survivors Manage.
Find it at https://helpingsurvivorsmanage.com. (Full disclosure: I have no relationship, financial or otherwise, with this site).
Everyone, regardless of age, should at least give some thought to this. For those of us a bit longer in the tooth, it becomes very important. It is an act of love for those closest to you.
In fact, I encourage you to be like my friend and colleague, Rev. Merv Berkel, who sat his family down once a year and reminded them of his wishes—pre and post death! And then they feasted!
Being with your loved ones, at their bedside, is a sacred moment. Thinking ahead and planning ahead, just enough, enables you to stay grounded in the midst of the overwhelming sorrow and grief.
My dream is that everyone facing the death of a loved one, in the immediate aftermath, will have a sense of what their loved one wanted and how to proceed with next steps. Websites like Helping Survivors Manage can help make that dream come true. Finding the courage to sit your family and loved ones down and have THE conversation is crucially important.