By Reverend Candace Boyd, Craig Hospital Chaplain
We’ve always known that, as human beings, we have an innate need to be in community with others, and the pandemic has made that even more obvious. We thrive on being able to eat together and move freely side-by-side, to give and receive hugs, and to see each other’s smiles.
Social distancing has been especially challenging in health care where the human touch and family support are part of the healing process. The spiritual self is an integral part of the spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation process, and it is buoyed by one’s interactions with the people in their community. How is it, then, that we find that anchor in the storm, that grounding and foundational sense of community, when we need to separate ourselves from each other for our own health and safety?
As the faith leader at Craig Hospital, I work with patients and their families for their entire stay, helping them process their new normal and find strength in their spiritual selves and communities. It is an honor to name the holy and recognize the sacredness of the moment that our patients are in – a period both of intense hardship and overwhelming strength.
What have I learned from the pandemic? That people don’t need to feel separated from their faith communities after a catastrophic injury.
A lesson we may take away from our pandemic experience is that virtual communication can open doors and provide links to healing that we weren’t as focused on before. When there were no visitor restrictions and local faith leaders could provide care for patients, the prospect of connecting with one’s pastor or rabbi at home wasn’t often considered. But now that all faith leaders are also digital event producers and video communication-savvy, patients can have weekly chats with their spiritual community back home. This helps strengthen their connection with their friends, family and neighbors, and it helps maintain that sense of belonging with a community. It is something familiar at a time when nothing feels familiar.
It is vital that we find the lessons from this incredibly challenging moment. I believe that we are going to come out even stronger on the other side of the pandemic, and we may value even more our relationships with other people. May we continue to hold each other close, build each other up, and foster community near, far, virtual and in-person, no matter the moment in which we find ourselves.