In all my years as a hospital chaplain, the present Covid-19 pandemic is unique. Coping with the reality of the present virus and its effects on families, friends, coworkers, and society has been difficult and confusing. This kind of pervasive health crisis has not been experienced since the Flu epidemic after the First World War.
Many of us have suffered the death of a loved one or our own sickness. Grief and shock has often led to an earthquake of change. For those who have survived the virus, like myself, it has been a fault-line of emotional and physical upheaval. The Gospel invites us to walk through isolation, fear, helplessness/hopelessness sorrow and physical suffering with four important tools.
The first tool is to believe that you are not alone. Jesus stands with you through His Incarnation, and He will provide His love and care to you, your family and friends.
The second is to reach-out to your pastors, family and community. Talk about your feelings. Do not be afraid of asking for prayer and support. Isolation often increases a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. Use whatever kind of communication that keeps you in touch with other caring persons in your life.
The third is to take this time to be creative. Alone time does not mean hardship and suffering. It can be a time to paint, write, pray, read, and develop new ideas or plans for the future. This extra time can give us an opportunity for discovery and renewal.
The fourth is to reframe the reality of the situation in the context of the Gospel. If we have suffered the trauma and loss of a loved one, change comes with the territory of grief. I know from the loss of my wife, that we often feel, not just their loss, but also the dislocation of our emotional and physical anchors.
Dealing with pain can create feelings of God’s abandonment and result in anger and resentment, which makes the loss more difficult. Grieving a loss takes time. Blaming God or others blocks our healing and the process of coming to terms with the changes in our life. I like the psalms, which validate our feelings of sorrow and grief but also point to Gods promises and presence in the midst of suffering. My favorite Gospel in times of pain and hardship is St. John beginning with the first chapter.
I hope that this short reflection will help you and your family sail through these difficult seas of emotion and hardship to find comfort and peace in the safe harbor of the love of Jesus.