KANSAS CITY, MO – Truman Medical Centers / University Health hospital staff took a break at 7 p.m. Friday to acknowledge the efforts of doctors, nurses and janitors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some lit a candle. Others turned on a flashlight or shared a picture of a candle on Facebook. A token gesture coincides with Kansas City, Missouri’s one year anniversary. Mayor Quinton Lucas declared a state of emergency.
Rev. Roxanne Pendleton of the Center for Trauma Informed Innovation at Truman Medical Centers said the anniversary of a traumatic event could trigger episodes of grief.
“COVID can be viewed as a global trauma,” Pendleton said. “The definition of trauma is that we experience something that threatens us or is perceived as threatening.”
For those at the forefront of the healthcare industry, there is even some form of secondary trauma that involves saving critically ill patients.
“My department has done a lot of work to help people understand, ‘How do you navigate trauma? How do you heal it?'” Pendleton said. “You can’t really protect yourself from secondary trauma. It’s a normal stress response to seeing or hearing something traumatic. But how do you resolve that secondary trauma?”
This is where the Center for Trauma-Informed Innovation plays a role as an educational and training group that works with educators, law enforcement agencies and businesses to raise awareness about trauma-informed care.
The lessons apply to anyone suffering from grief related to the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it is about losing a loved one or simply losing a sense of normalcy.
Pendleton said it is important to take care of yourself and deal with grief because stressful emotions can manifest themselves in physical symptoms – including headaches, body aches, fatigue, upset stomach, chronic disease worsening, wobbly, insomnia, and more.
Even if you’re unaware that an anniversary of a painful event is bothering you, symptoms can appear, according to Pendleton.
“Our body remembers what happened to us, whether our minds are aware or not …” she said. “We may be more irritable, emotional, exhausted and have brain fog – and there is a lot of angry driving. Lots of people report angry driving and that’s because our body reminds us and reminds us.”
Your advice if you experience any of these? Be kind, patient, and gentle with yourself.
Pendleton also shared other tips for a good grief:
- Acknowledge that grief is a normal response to loss. We mourn both great and small losses, and we mourn immaterial and material things
- Give yourself permission to grieve in your own way. There is no “right” way to respond to losses. Therefore, avoid ideas about what you should be feeling or doing and just accept your experience for what it is.
- Express what you have lost in writing or orally with a person you trust. It is important to talk about your grief and to allow time for silence.
- Allow a wide variety of emotions – sadness, guilt, fear, anger, disorientation, relief, hopelessness, irritability, inability to concentrate, numbness, and more. That is normal.
- Practice self-compassion and remember that the emotions are draining and draining. If you can breathe deeply intense emotions for 90 seconds, you will likely find that the emotions have peaked and are gradually subsiding.
- To avoid the physical effects of grief, you should slow down, eat nutritious meals, rest, and limit your time and energy.
- Spend your time doing things and going for walks with people you care for.
- Be aware of the grief and be deliberate because if you don’t take care of our grief it will ultimately take a toll physically, mentally, emotionally, and in relation to relationships.
- Take the time and space to mourn with a repeating ritual. Use your spiritual practices, art, music, or other sources of comfort and joy, including precious memories and time with loved ones.
- Avoid clichés and judgment. Instead, look for meaning or purpose. Humans can survive almost anything if they find meaning and purpose in their suffering.
- Move toward, not away from, your grief and understand that it is more of a process than an event. Life won’t be the same and you won’t be the same. But over time, and with purpose, you will complete the grief work and regain a sense of balance.
If you need help, Truman Medical Centers / University Health’s Cruman Line is a resource available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 888-279-8188.