The Pandemic’s long-term effects reach us all. Thankfully, we don’t have to do this alone.
Please share in the comments what’s helped you get through this time, or another hard time. Your experience might help someone else.
When I was in seminary, I spent a summer working as a hospital chaplain. I sat with people through trauma: life changing strokes, sudden losses of life, a teen whose failed suicide had violent and long-lasting physical repercussions. There were bicyclists who had been hit, Fourth of July celebrations gone horribly wrong, and a fall from a rooftop.
One young man was so traumatized after a car accident, he refused to call his family. He was completely alone. Pre-pandemic, he was in critical care for weeks with no visitors. His parents had sacrificed greatly to get him to the USA for school and work. How could he tell them he was in the hospital? It would devastate them. He couldn’t disappoint them.
We all know that his loving family would have been devastated to learn their son was recovering from near death in a hospital, languishing alone. It was his own, very traumatized brain that told him another story, and it kept him from the healing love of family he so desperately needed.
I had one session with him. It was less than an hour. He cried and looked away, embarrassed. When I asked him if he wanted me to leave, he just nodded yes and never looked at me again. I left the room defeated. I wondered if I had done him even more harm.
But the next time I saw him, a week or two later, he yelled to me in the hall. He was up and walking, and his brother was there by his side. I realized then how busy he had been those many days of silence, doing the work of healing on so many levels. He had found what he needed to live again – not to languish, but to live.
Trauma takes many forms. It always changes us. This man experienced acute trauma – a life-altering car accident. There are also traumas that build slowly, over time.
We are just about to hit the two year anniversary of the pandemic in Michigan – two years of hyper-vigilance and fear and worry and, for many, isolation. This does things to our brains.
There may be ways you are not yourself these days. Perhaps you fear going out sometimes, even when your rational brain tells you how to mitigate risk. Perhaps you’ve lost interest in things that used to bring you joy. If you have found other ways to experience joy, I celebrate that. But if you’re anxious or depressed, or just plain getting by (the fancy word for that is languishing), it is time to name your trauma. Name it and know you are not alone. We are all going through this together.
Remember that God calls us to life and life abundant — never to a life of languishing or “getting by.” Over and over again in the Gospels, Christ’s loving and tangible response to the traumas of people’s lives — the places where healing is desperately needed — is to love. Christ invites faith. And Christ heals.
Sometimes faith is a prerequisite for healing, and other times not. Perhaps in those moments when faith is required, what Christ is really saying is that healing starts with belief: belief in Christ, belief in ourselves, belief that change is possible, belief that another would care, belief that I – even I – am worth fighting for. And that you are.
Let’s do the work of healing, together.
RESOURCES for changing those traumatized brain patterns:
- Join a book study (new groups are forming for February). Come to the knitting group. Remember you can do these things in person or on Zoom. Your comfort level is honored. Do this even if it doesn’t sound good. Trauma can make it hard to want to do anything.
- Invite a friend over for coffee and a game or movie night. Don’t wait for others to reach out, find someone who feels safe and issue an invitation.
- Many people (including pastors) find prayer is healing and important during times of trauma. But, ironically, we often can’t find the words. Find a daily devotional or prayer resource that gives you the words for daily prayer and build it into your routine (we have options at the church office).
- Many of our families are noticing that children and youth are showing signs of trauma. Help kids and teens know what it is they’re experiencing, and that they’re not alone. Children’s Ministry Director Erica Kozlowski has been sending families trauma resources for months, and she can help you with your needs as well. Youth Director Lisa Thomas has lots of professional and personal experience with youth trauma. Please consider these two your resources and allies, and lean on them for support. They want nothing more than to help your kids thrive in a difficult time.
- If you want to know about community resources and professional help and care for adults, reach out to Sarah Drews. She’s our Health & Wellness advocate here at Central Church.
- It might be time to consider helping others as part of your own healing. Talk with Sarah about being a parish visitor, or join efforts of caring or calling or delivering.
- Look for more opportunities for grief and trauma support in March, as we launch into the Lenten season. In those weeks leading up to Easter, we plan to devote our time in worship to strengthening our emotional and spiritual selves as we make our way toward springtime and Easter.
Want to know more about pandemic stress, isolation and trauma? I found this story from NPR particularly helpful.