Grieving in the midst of COVID

There are very few things that shake me.  As a nurse, I am used to the impossible, inevitable, irritating, heartbreaking, jaw dropping, sometimes hilarious realities that constitute human behavior.  However, this pandemic has been shocking from start to finish, and I say that as a nurse who has caught her patient nonchalantly drinking his own urine as if it were a latte.

I honestly have put off writing because I don’t know where to begin.  But I don’t think anyone really does, so I will start and see if the words come.

We recently expanded our relatively small ICU into our stepdown unit.  We are all being stretched. Soon it will extend to our medical floor, and then the hallways and grand marble lobbies. But the most horrifying fact to me is now that, instead of the East River, our patients rooms now overlook the white tented morgue set up for this pandemic. And although it’s such a small thing, it’s a jarring and constant reminder that death is close.  Perhaps it will come for you, perhaps it will come for someone you love, if it has not already, and the anticipatory grief is mind numbing.

Death is so rarely peaceful, especially not in intensive care. Modern medicine is an amazing and beautiful thing, and our efforts are often met with miraculous success. However, for many, instead of dying gracefully, peacefully, surrounded by families and loved ones, our patients die slowly, life draining from cruelly, in a second by second agony of tubes, drains, and medications titrated at mcgs per hour.  Death is often prolonged because of the interventions we use to keep our patients alive.  But some survive. So here we live, at the breath between life and death-seconds away from loss, seconds away from life.

Moral distress in nursing is heightened with the outbreak of this pandemic as we try desperately, sweating, bleeding, tearful, in full protective gear which we have rigged together in our own desperate attempts to stay alive, overworked with doubled or tripled nursing ratios, to achieve the godlike and impossible aspiration of turning back time, and  again and again, only to lose to death again. I am not new to intensive care, and yet I watch this pandemic unfold and cannot fathom the ramifications. As nurses and healthcare providers we grieve the great losses of our world, our city, our communities, our families.  We are all carrying the weight of Atlas, but nurses and physicians shoulder not only the weight but the physical and emotional cost of care, and we are not ok.  We may not be ok for a long time.  This pandemic will have enormous and lasting ripples on our lives and backbones and hearts.  You will grieve, but we will remember the dying breaths, the screams, and the agony, and sometimes in the quiet, wonder if we did enough, if we are enough, and if there was anything else we could do, into the dark hours of the night.

All this, of course, if we live through this.  I am told by a friend that 30% of nurses are sick at a hospital which will remain nameless.  Another texted me, afraid, trying to find what happened to a friend and team member.  We feel the fear, as we put on our scrubs, as we wear our masks throughout twelve hour shifts. As we run down hallways, as we attempt resuscitation, as we breathe with our patients, we are not superhuman or vulcan.  We are very, very human.

I am trying to process, to breathe, to grieve, and to still laugh at the numerous idiosyncrasies of life.  I had one patient get better.  There will be more. There are so many sweet things in life-baby pictures, puppy snuggles, letters from friends, flowers, encouraging messages and notes, cups of coffee…amazing meals… I am beyond overwhelmed with the amount of love and support Collin and I have received and yet I am still grieving.  Thank you for the love, we feel it minute by minute and it warms our hearts on the hardest of days.  Yet over the past few weeks I have often felt lost and I often wonder how anyone can retain their own sense of self in this endless tidal wave of grief and loss and anger that threatens to destroy us.

I cried today for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, I am certain I will again.  I lost a patient, I’m sure it will not be my last.  We did everything we could, but it was not enough.  I listened to her husband sing to her and ask her not to go, but she did. Tears are healing, they remind us that there is space for our hearts and for our selves in this.  Because families cannot be there personally, I try to wait in the room with patients as they pass, in their place, to hold their hand.  I hope presence is enough.  When I can find words, I will say them.  But often I just stand waiting with them.

There is hope, even in death.  There is light, even in darkness.  There is comfort in the midst of horror.  NYC, I do not know what will happen tonight.  I do not know what will happen tomorrow when I go back to work, or the many days after, but I will stand with you for love and light until we can find it together.

Xo,

Amanda

 

Author: Amanda

My name is Amanda. I'm a twenty something year old dreamer. Wanderer. Fighter. And firm believer in twinkle lights. I want to invite you into this blog like a long lost friend. Grab a seat. Warm your hands by the fire. and soak in the candles and firelight while a cup of warm tea reaches the dusty corners of your beautiful soul. This world can be harsh and cold. This is an invitation. We all need a blanket and a place, just a small place, to find that moment where the clear morning air cleans out our heads. I'm in the business of healing. When I was little with a play stethoscope, and some tape, I used to try to help stuffed animals. Now I get to help people, and I love every gritty moment of it. My life is complicated, sweet, and something I've fought to protect. I pray this blog will be a tiny way I can help fight for you, cheer you on like a cheerleader at homecoming. So come home. Stay a bit. Make some tea. Let's chat and look at the stars and see if, maybe, we can find some peace.

10 thoughts on “Grieving in the midst of COVID”

  1. Amanda, I pray for you, for all of the personnel on the front lines of this pandemic. Your words are beautiful, searing, compassionate, and fear invoking. Bless you. And if you have time, do tell Collin hello from the neighbors who gave him a fuzzy bunny rabbit for his birth. I will pray for you tomorrow morning when I get up and know that you are on your way to work. Take care of yourself.

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  2. Dear Amanda
    That was wonderful. I am very proud of what you and your partners are doing helping others. I pray that you will come through this safely.
    I love you very much. Lets talk soon.
    Love grandpa B.

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  3. You are amazing! Stay strong and keep your faith. Thanks for being there for the people you serve and brave enough to tell us the way it really is. Prayer to you and your team members. ❤️🙏❤️ Stay healthy!

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  4. Amanda, thank you for sharing your heart. I hope you see rest here:

    Daily Encouragement

    Tuesday, March 31

    “Matthew 11:28
    ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’

    Three Observations:

    First is the command of Christ, “Come unto Me.” A commandment that is full of love from the heart of Jesus Christ.

    Second is those who are exhorted to come. The ‘weak and heavy-laden’ or those who are under an unsupportable burden, those weary in pursuit of their own wearisome agendas. The invitation is comprehensive. Is not my name here? Your name? I know I could be called by both names, weary and heavy-laden.

    Third, Christ presses this invitation by using three words. (1) “Me” – It is as if Christ could persuade us by no other argument greater than this – Himself – which would entice me to heed the exhortation – the price of “Me,” Jesus Christ. (2) “Rest” – If we would heed the exhortation to come, we will find rest. What argument could persuade people to come more than the offer of rest? Are you weary? Are you heavy laden? The answer is the rest found in Christ. You see, Christ is the answer. Are you under wrath? Righteousness is found in Christ. Do you want to be Holy? Sanctification is found in Christ. Wisdom? Need? All found in Christ. (3) “I will give you” – it is free. The rest Christ offers is not because you deserve it, but because Christ freely gives it. So, first, you deserve nothing, but Christ gives it freely. Second, because the giver, Christ, is matchless, the gift is matchless. Third, the rest is so perfect and complete, you will not have a better rest. Complete soul satisfaction.

    When I think of this great command to “come,” I have a sense of urgency. I think of Genesis 30:1 when Rachel, who was barren at the time, said to Jacob “Give me children or else I die.” I want to heed Christ’s bid to come to His rest. I want to run to heed the call. I want to be so desirous of the good rest that on the one hand Jesus commands me to come to His rest – but on the other hand because I know the rest He speaks of – that I say, “give me rest or I die.”

    Friends – Run to the Rest in Christ.

    Pastor Rick Goertzen”

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  5. Thank you…and the countless other people who are out there, doing what we cannot do! You are an angel!!!😇 May every life that you encounter be touched and blessed by your love! God Bless You Amanda!!!

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  6. Praying for you Amanda(as u serve) , & Hubby for protection. Very Thankful for u & all Health Care Workers as well, that press on, serving this sea of people. Specifically I pray for…ur emotional healing from all u see/go through, protection from this horrid virus, strength to press on, a light at the end of the Tunnel & comfort through it all, from the Lord. You are a light for Him & a great blessing to many. Thankyou 😊😙, Love & Hugs, Cathy…Long time friend Mom&Dad …your next door neighbor when u were born (in Windsor).🙏🏼

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    1. thank you so much for all the support and prayers-we so appreciate them! LOVE AND HUGS (and I’m so sorry about the delayed response) Hope you are staying safe

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