Being with the Sick and Dying During COVID-19
Many of you have already experienced the drastic care restrictions that have been put in place to help dampen the spread of COVID-19. The simple acts of visiting in the hospital, bringing flowers or a special treat, or being able to consult with the doctors in person have currently been stripped away. Now we yearn for the experience of being overly tired from a terrible night’s stay in those uncomfortable hospital sofas or hungry for “real food” after eating hospital meals for days.
When our physical ability to be with one another is taken away, it can create some very real experiences: a sense of helplessness and overwhelming guilt. In a world of a lot of “can not’s” there are some really helpful things you still “can” do and truths we “can” hold onto when we are caring for those we love who are sick.
- You can remember there is nothing you could have done to prevent the illness of your loved one. In grief, our minds can become trapped and even haunted by “what if” questions such as, “if I would have only left the house 5 minutes earlier, gone to a different store, or disinfected the house one more time…” These questions are so natural to start asking, but can quickly encourage us to assume more responsibility on our own shoulders than we can muster. The more we entertain those questions, the more guilt and shame we start to internalize for what has happened.
I want to tell you two truths. The first truth is of reality, that there is nothing you could have done on this earth to prevent this virus from getting to where it is today. It’s awful that we (you) are experiencing this, but you could not cause this to happen to your loved one. The second truth is Biblical: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Precious one, allow God’s love take away any unneeded, excess guilt you may be feeling and replace that with His sovereignty and His love.
- You can and need to stay connected to your loved ones. Though there is no equal replacement to being with our loved ones in person, thanks be to God for the technology of our time. Hebrews 3:13 reminds us of the necessity of community when it states: But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” In our isolation, our fears can get the best of us, can’t they? But by staying in contact with one another, we are reminded of Truth and encouraged to face the day with love over fear.
- You can stay in community and pray. Community and prayer are two major resources we can still tap into! In our current state, the temptation is to isolate ourselves or fear we might overburden one another by sharing what’s going on. Galatians 6:2 says,“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” We are truly being the hands and feet of Jesus when we look upon the needs of one another with compassion and pray specifically, on behalf of one another, for the Lord to come alongside and fulfill those needs. The good news is this act of community isn’t broken by physical separation. There is something incredibly powerful about our love for one another that transcends the physical space and time and brings us into a spiritual, emotional space together. This space cannot be taken away, and it is the space we can receive and give comfort, encouragement, and support to one another. Express those needs to a trusting community for us to rally around one another.
- You can do reparative work on your relationships, even over FaceTime. One of those diamonds in the rough of a crisis is the gift of perspective on what is most important. Our relationships channels can get clogged with bitterness, resentment, and distance quite easily, and often times we have been stuck here in this state for years. But now would be a perfect time to reach back out to those you love, even those who are hard to love, and express the love that you have for them.
Scripture encourages us to “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18-19). So many of us have affectionate thoughts towards our loved ones, but we haven’t been in the practice of saying those sentiments out loud to one another. Those words left unsaid is what contributes to the experience of regret. Do your relationships a favor and try to get your relationships as “clean” and filled with love as possible.
- Find ways to serve others. Another encouragement I would give you is to find ways to encourage and support those around you. Paul encouraged us in Galatians 5:13, “serve one another humbly in love,” for through our service, we are living out the freedom that we receive in Christ. Whether you can find a way to encourage the nurse/doctor staff caring for your loved one or serving a neighbor, these acts of service can allow us to feel that we still can be a source of care to others. Giving back is an empowering experience that allows us to feel that we are giving back to others and reciprocating the love and community we are receiving.
Gregory, Christina, PhD. (2020) The five stages of grief: an examination of the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross model. Retrieved from https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.grief.html
Published on Apr 15 @ 1:12 PM CDT