My COVID Lessons
CEOLC Secretary & Co-Founder | End of Life Midwife | Certified by The Conscious Dying Institute, Denver Hospice
Last year sucked. Can I say “sucked” in a blog? Never mind…I just did. And I meant it. Twenty-twenty will be a year that few will forget, no matter how we might try. Politics, social upheaval, and COVID were one-two-three body shots that left us gasping. Yet, we moved forward.
It has been said that we learn the most when we are most challenged. I believe it is true. As an end-of-life midwife, 2020 brought me closer to understanding the emotional and psychological adversities experienced by those who are dying. During COVID I have experienced a lack of social contact that inspired depression and anxiety, loneliness, stress induced by a loss of control, a shifting of relationship dynamics, boredom, and fear over what might come next—all realities familiar to the dying.
Each of these experiences are small deaths, but when put together they amount to a shift that, as I now know on a more personal level, makes the world seem foreign and frightening. When I contemplate that the dying have the additional challenges of wasting bodies and the despair and perhaps humiliation related to the (often) loss of cognitive and physical abilities, I truly can’t imagine resigning a single human to dying without a broad-spectrum of support.
Having lived through COVID 2020, I’m even more committed to advocating the need for experienced dying- and death-tenders including end-of-life midwives. Our very presence mitigates the emotional and physical fallout associated with dying. We provide the consistent social contact imperative to fighting depression, anxiety and loneliness. We work to assure that our clients are empowered to make decisions about their life, death, and steps that come after. End-of-life midwives can encourage communication between the dying and their loved. We model healthy and productive ways to view and speak about impending death. We are nurturing companions, so the dying needn’t feel cut-off and alone. And, perhaps most importantly, we listen. We don’t back away or hide when the dying talk about what might, or might not, follow their demise.
While I will never consider COVID a blessing, I like to tell myself that it if people could connect their personal experiences with those of the dying, they might more clearly understand the needs of their departing loved ones. That, in turn, might open a door to greater involvement during the last stages of a family member or friend’s life.
Pollyanna. While highly empathetic and sensitive folks may draw links between their COVID/2020 isolation and the state of the dying, I doubt that the majority will have any desire to connect the dots. It requires creativity and demands too much effort. But what if…what if ONE person in a position to advocate for changing the way we treat the dying in America does ponder this lesson? Just ONE, who decides to take up the cause. It could lead to all kinds of wonderful things…