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HEALTH MINDED . . .

HONORING HEALTH PROVIDERS & RESPONDERS WITH BLESSED BLUE

A Special Silent Tribute to Heroes in Santa Barbara & The World

by Bonnie Carroll

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital

When the Coronavirus Pandemic started and so many people were dying in hospitals throughout the world, I did a story on a small group of senior residents in my own building who saw people in Rome and New York clapping and decided to meet each night at 7 pm to clap and the building manager sang an Italian aria in honor of the doctors, nurses and first responders throughout the world. This story appeared on KEYT3 TV and in Edhat.com news magazine.

This was nearly three months ago, and has now become a very noisy banging, clapping and yelling of conversations across what has always been a quiet courtyard complex, and sadly what began as a few supposed moments of respect for Pandemic heroes has now become a disturbance to some residents at a time when people require relaxation and calm at the end of their day.

This needed self-caring is especially important during the Pandemic, and now due to the terrible and violent events happening during the past week. The horrible death of George Floyd while being arrested in Minnesota, which we all have viewed on the news, as well as the subsequent protests and violent rioting in cities throughout America, has made a home environment of self restoration and quiet imperative.

Santa Barbara has been offering local residents some quiet and respectful opportunities to honor our heroes of Coronavirus Pandemic through a unique special blue lighting at the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, Santa Barbara Mission, and Arlington Theatre where each night at 8 p.m. blue lights illuminate the buildings.

Many of the people I love the most and have had life-long friendships with are first responders, doctors and nurses and I appreciate this “blue lighting” opportunity at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital to meditate and pray for their safety, as well people who lost the battle, and all the life savers throughout the world still risking their own lives to help others.

It's really not necessary for people to yell, clap, holler and disturb the peace of people nearby to honor our real Heroes of Pandemic. It's silly to expect personal or public aggrandizement for making a small effort to honor those doing great works in the world. It is inspiring that we can all just pray in the glow of the blue lights knowing God hears all our prayers of thanks and gratitude and know that He always has a plan.

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Cultivating Resilience In Loss and Grief”

Part of Hospice of Santa Barbara's

Coping with COVID-19” Information Series

 

 In response to the growing need for emotional and practical support related to COVID-19 in the Greater Santa Barbara area, HSB now offers a comprehensive resource page called “Coping With COVID-19.” It includes videos and articles by our Community Education staff of dedicated experts, therapists and clergy. Topics include relevant issues we are all facing during the global pandemic. The Coping with COVID-19 Series is comprised of fresh original content. It addresses the many emotional and practical day-to-day challenges coronavirus is having on all of us including schedules, finances, the lives of our children and family, our plans our control over situations.

 

The COVID-19 quarantine is compelling us to face a new kind of loss. We have lost all sense of normalcy in our lives. It is a difficult and confusing time for everyone.

 

Many of us feel helpless, and with the uncertainty, emotions can be intense. We’ve all lost a sense of safety. Many of our events have been canceled: school, church services, sports, graduation, weddings. The sense of loss from not having loved ones around us is especially hard for those giving birth, now happening in isolation, rather than in the presence of family and friends. Some are suffering the death of a loved one due to this pandemic, as well as other causes, which makes grieving all the more difficult. There is so much to grieve at this time. 

 

One way of experiencing COVID-19’s impact on our way of living is treating it as though it’s the death of someone who matters. It can be a reminder of times when you’ve been sick. But we aren’t sick, nor have we dealt with a recent death, but the feelings are the same. Life feels surreal in not knowing what to expect or how to live in this changed reality. Being with grief and death in our work at HSB has informed us about ways to be with loss on a larger scale. 

 

You may sense feelings coming up inside. It could be fear, anger, guilt, shame, anxiety, regret, loneliness, helplessness, yearning, and more. These feelings can happen one at a time or all together in utter confusion. We might cycle through different feelings over and over. These are NORMAL reactions to loss. We are all grieving the loss of our world as we know it. And grief can be powerful.

 

We are being told to socially distance ourselves from others, which can create further isolation and loss. In grief from death we encourage people to reach out to others, which is a form of healing in itself. Though we need to physically distance ourselves, social, emotional and spiritual connections are vital.

 

This moment in history is an opportunity to develop greater resilience; it is an opportunity for growth, deeper connection and intimacy, forgiveness and gratitude. There are many possibilities. But first it’s important to recognize that this is a major loss, and it’s important how we address it.

 

It’s alright to give ourselves permission to recognize the stories you tell ourselves during the pandemic. These stories color the way we live through this difficult time. They color how we respond, support each other or not, and whether we will come out more whole in the end. For example, a story behind panic might be, “I won’t have what I need, I’ll starve," or “I’ll never survive this,” so we buy huge quantities of supplies, creating problems for other people.

 

Our experience of COVID-19 can either be an opportunity for growth, or a recipe for further disaster. How do we remain calm during these times? One way is to check in with yourself by asking: 

 

  • What are my thoughts? They might be, “This will never end," or “How can I help?,” or, “This is an opportunity to use creative problem-solving skills."
  • What are my feelings? This could be fear or anger, sadness, or utter confusion.
  • “What is happening in my body?” "Am I in survival mode of fight or flight or freeze?"
  • Can we tolerate the state we’re in with the abruptness of the changed world? 
  • Can we tolerate the feelings that arise in this novel experience? 
  • Can we grow the window of tolerance for our own experiences and for those of others? 

 

Can we allow ourselves to be in this vulnerable place?  How do we support ourselves each other during these challenging times? Consider these methods for helping yourself and others:

 

  • Sit down, stay calm. Both calm and panic can have a ripple effect. One calm presence in the room may be all anyone needs in a crisis. 
  • Set down the terrifying stories about the future you may be telling yourself. Most of us are not fortune tellers. Don’t pass on rumors. Be in the here and now. Check in with yourself, what are your thoughts, feelings and body sensations?
  • Practice self-kindness. Be especially kind to yourself and others at this time, rather than ignoring the pain that’s here for all of us.  Put aside judgment for yourself and for others.
  • Know that we are all going through this together. Normalize what you and those around you are feeling. These are challenging times. Know your feelings are normal. Try not to over- identify with the feelings you do have. Take a balanced approach to your difficult emotions so that feelings are neither bottled-up nor exaggerated. You don’t have to act on them.
  • Be mindful of and acknowledge any feelings that do arise. Name them. If it’s confusion, name that.
  • We can be physically distant, and still be socially, emotionally, and spiritually connected. Reach out to someone over the phone, Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, or by writing a letter or card.
  • Ground yourself and come to your senses: feel your feet on the floor, pressing softly, really feel the sensations. Breathe through your nose and out your mouth, notice five different colors you see, four things you can touch, three things you hear, two things you can smell, one taste you have in your mouth now.
  • It’s not easy to bear witness to mass suffering. We might feel uneasy, and we might even collude in creating more harm, whether it’s anxiety, panic, judgment or some other form.  Loss stimulates our own fears because we’re empathic creatures. Recognize this.
  • If we’re going to support each other in this time of mass loss and grief without getting lost in it, we need to get to know the terrain of our own feelings and thoughts and not act impulsively. Ask  “If I can’t tolerate grief and loss in myself – will I be able to tolerate it in others?”
  • In the beginning when loss is fresh, it can be most confusing; emotions pour in too fast to differentiate. We need to sit quietly, shelter in place (in grief we call this “cocooning”) and listen to ourselves and those who matter to us. Be real, share honestly.
  • Get to know these states in yourself – sadness, fear, helplessness, and so on. Don’t try and take away someone’s suffering, just listen. Support others where they are. Pay attention. Show up and be present (even virtually). The more we’re aware of our inner terrain, the more present we are able to be. Nonjudgmental presence may be all that’s needed for the time being. We need to recognize the pain on a level of conscious awareness in order to heal.

 

As we heal from this, let curiosity grow. Learn to trust the process of grief. It slows us down and allows us to see things in a new way.  

 

Remember, we are all in this pandemic together, which is showing us our true interdependence and the importance of our human connections. When this is over and done, let’s not forget the lessons we learn from this era. What we need now is love and compassion. Let's embrace one another and our shared experience as we move forward through the days, weeks and months ahead.

 

Hospice of Santa Barbara

Hospice of Santa Barbara provides professional counseling, support groups, and patient care services free of charge to individuals and families who are grieving the death of a loved one or experiencing the impact of a life-threatening illness.  Hospice of Santa Barbara also provides counseling in our offices and on fifteen local junior and high school campuses to children and teens who are grieving the loss of a loved one. For more information about Hospice of Santa Barbara, including volunteer opportunities, call (805) 563-8820 or visit www.hospiceofsantabarbara.org.

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LATEST ON PANDEMIC - WHAT'S NEXT

U.S. senators offered a bipartisan $3 billion plan on Thursday to prepare for the next global health crisis, putting a premium on fighting disease outbreaks and pandemics like COVID-19.

In a departure from partisan divisions over the novel coronavirus, Senator Jim Risch, Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Democratic committee members Chris Murphy and Ben Cardin introduced the bill, with high hopes that much of it would eventually become law.

The measure, which was introduced last week but announced on Thursday, would authorize $3 billion to rebuild the U.S. pandemic defense system, invest in global vaccine developments and help countries that need it to build up their health systems.

Senate aides said it was not intended to reflect criticism of Republican President Donald Trump's response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 100,000 Americans and cratered the U.S. economy.

In a statement, Risch said he saw the "Global Health Security and Diplomacy Act" as a first step toward a carefully coordinated approach to global health security.

"We don't have the luxury of waiting and rebuilding our global public health infrastructure after this crisis is past," Murphy told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"The next pandemic may be on top of us this winter," Murphy said.

The measure would also require Trump to develop a global health security strategy, establish a coordinator for global health security and diplomacy at the State Department and encourage Trump to appoint a senior director for global health to the National Security Council.

It does not discuss the World Health Organization. Accusing WHO of being "China-centric," Trump threatened to permanently halt funding if it does not commit to improvements within 30 days and reconsider U.S. membership.

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© 2008 Bonnie Carroll, All Rights Reserved