Finding Peace and Expressing Love in Times of Physical Distance
Ken Druck and John E. Welshons
Finding out yesterday that a good friend had “died alone” earlier this week of the COVID-19 was sad enough. Hearing that his son, daughter and grandkids were not able to be at his side, that his body had been moved to a temporary storage facility and that a memorial service could not be held until physical distancing ends, was heartbreaking.
The new “current” normal for being gravely ill with a highly contagious virus — and for dying and grieving — requires a new playbook. Doing all we can to show our love to those we cherish as their lives hang in the balance is forcing us to find new, innovative, and meaningful rituals and practices and redesign the rules for these situations.
Another dear friend, Maria, whose kid brother, Arthur, was dying after his ventilator had been removed, did just that. With assistance from several compassionate nurses, Maria and her elderly parents had an iPad set up so that Arthur could see and hear them.
Telling Arthur how much they loved him, watching him open his eyes and smile for a brief moment, and then saying a tearful goodbye is something they will remember forever. After her brother passed, Maria told us he fact that their “I love you’s” took place via an iPad did not diminish the beauty of that experience.
So, if you find yourself in the process of (potentially) losing loved ones you cannot comfort in person, or you’ve lost those you’re not going to be able to bury, here are some guidelines:
1. Allow yourself to feel sorrow. This is a sad time. The life of someone you love is either at risk, in the process of ending, or is over. How could you not feel frightened, unsettled, and uncertain about the future?
2. Given the physical-distancing requirements of COVID-19, you’re facing new and unexpected challenges to being there for your loved ones. Take a deep breath and search for solutions that allow you to express the full measure of love to the extent possible.
3. Find out from someone in charge at the medical facility (if applicable) if there are ways you can physically be with your loved ones without putting them or yourself at risk. Be respectful, patient and humble when you make this request as doctors, nurses and medical professionals are stretched to the limit.
4. Jot down the key things you really want to say to your loved ones (and have them say to you if possible) so you’re prepared to express what’s in your heart.
5. Acknowledge the reality of the situation as best as you can. Avoid putting an unrealistic positive spin on what’s happening, but rather, leave them with a dear and loving message, even if they’re dying.
6. Assuming it’s not possible to be there with them, use technology (such as an iPad, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Facebook Messenger, etc.) to see, hear, and feel each other’s presence.
7. Try your best to take a deep breath and allow life to be what it is. We’re asked to dance with the unknowable mysteries, cycles, and uncertainties of life which we, and the people we love, come here for a time to experience.
8. Allow yourself to feel the blessings of having had these loved ones in your life, which would not be the intricate tapestry it has been without them.
9. If you’re about to lose someone, pledge to continue loving this person in all the ways that are humanly possible.
10. Know that love never dies. That may seem like a trite statement . . . but this is a moment to experience — through the agony of your loss — what is real and lasting beneath the pain, which is your love for this person and his or her love for you.
11. If it feels comfortable, hold a vision of your loved ones in your mind, and then imagine that image moving into the center of your heart. Know that they will always be there . . . within you . . . that this relationship will continue . . . and that they will remain available to you through your memories; and through the enriching, life-affirming emotions that your memories engender.
12. Honor everything you feel. If your mind tells you that what you’re experiencing is “unfair,” allow those thoughts and feelings to have their say. Voice the sadness, anger, frustration and any objections you may have about what has happened. Get it all out, vent your emotions, place your hand on your heart and breathe.
13. Resist the temptation we all feel in the rawness of grief to cast blame, bite peoples noses off and demand attention to our needs. Given that most of us are under great pressure, there will probably be a better time to sort out any differences we might have with doctors, nurses, health care workers, and people in the funeral service industry. Let’s all please be respectful and practice patience and restraint.
If you’re at risk of losing loved ones, we send you our love, prayers, and hopes that they get well. And if you’re facing the first minutes, hours, days, weeks, or months of having suffered such a loss, our hearts go out to you and your family.
In either case, please remember that you’re not alone! Not only are there thousands of other individuals and families going through exactly the same thing during this time, there’s support all around you. If you’re staunchly independent and self-reliant and waiting for a good reason to justify asking for love and support, this is it. We can all use this time as an opportunity to be kinder, more compassionate, and more supportive of ourselves and one another.
These are but a few of the things that might help you get started as you piece together a plan of action; a few moments of reflection and prayer; some creative approaches to expressing your love; the motivation to request support; and the ability to summon newfound strength, faith, and courage.
May you and your loved ones stay well and find peace.
Ken Druck and John E. Welshons are close friends and colleagues whose books, workshops, trainings, talks and articles on healing after loss have touched countless millions of lives over the past 40 years. For more information, go to www.kendruck.com, www.facebook.com/drkendruck and www.onesoulonelove.com, and www.facebook.com/john.welshons.