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Welcome to Week 4: Coping with crisis and moving ahead

Introducing week 4 and thinking about where we are now.

As people came much closer to death and dying during the pandemic they needed ways of surviving emotionally and psychologically. In the first part of this week we look at some ways they did this via the Wobble Room and the Stadium. You can also watch a video of The Pause. This is a way of responding to the death of a patient in hospital under pressurised circumstances. It helps keep staff in tune with their feelings, remind them of their own grief, and perhaps prevent them burying feelings. It can be this pressure to bury and move on from feelings that can eventually lead to the widely experienced phenomenon of burn out.

We then move on to think about what ‘reflective practice’ is, and Professor Cooper writes about his experience of facilitating reflective practice groups during the pandemic.

The pandemic has propelled us all into varying states of loss, grief and significant change. Those in positions of power including politicians and government officials are not immune and at times their vulnerability has been apparent. As we adapt and work through the stages, phases and tasks identified in the various theories and models of loss and grief, more will become possible. How we move forward will depend on what we have learned about what matters most.

Whether we can think about the pandemic and its many losses and potential gains in ways that support our emotional well being will depend on our capacity to work through the pain and grief involved. Reflecting on what has happened and considering what might be done to ensure the most painful aspects of the pandemic can be managed as compassionately as possible, is something we can all aim to do. Central to this is the understanding of the impact of loss and grief and the relationship we have with death and dying that have been the major themes of the course.

The final week of the course provides an opportunity to consider how a deeper engagement with some of the more painful aspects of being mortal might shape the future. Can we take this opportunity to develop our full potential as caring compassionate human beings? Or will we be quick to recreate our assumptive worlds based on the mistaken belief that we have been progressing toward ever greater rational enlightenment? Last week we finished on Iona Heath’s article in the BMJ. In this article, she quotes John Berger who, writing after the AIDS epidemic, wrote:

For two centuries we’ve believed in history as a highway which was taking us to a future such as nobody had ever known before. We thought we were exempt . . . Now people live to be much older. There are anaesthetics. We’ve landed on the moon . . . We apply reason to everything. We forgave the past its errors because they occurred in the Dark Ages. Now, suddenly we find ourselves far from any highway, perched like puffins on a cliff edge in the dark.

Let’s begin by looking at The Pause and The Wobble Room, two ways in which we might step off our perch, if only for a moment, in order to acknowledge the reality of vulnerability and suffering.

© Iona Heath’s Essay, Love in the time of coronavirus, BMJ, 2020
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Grief, Loss, and Dying During COVID-19

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