Acknowledgment of loss, acceptance of today’s reality, and the advancement of life are the three key principles to the process of cultivating strength and comfort in the pandemic, according to a Hospice of the Valley chaplain.

“We are all experiencing many losses because of this pandemic, and losses are normally coped with by some level of grieving,” said Bob Barrett.

Barrett, who has been a chaplain at Hospice of the Valley for nearly 15 years, was the speaker for the organization’s presentation “Life, Grief and the Coronavirus Pandemic.” The talk, which took place Tuesday on Zoom, aimed to provide caregivers and the general public with tools to help those dealing with loss.

Barrett sees the acknowledgment of loss, though often painful, as a way to better identify one’s needs, strengths and resources. It is not a step that is separate from acceptance and advancement. These three principles coincide with one another in a person’s daily thoughts and emotions.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been a multitude of losses ranging from the lack of in-person visits with friends and family to the loss of loved ones.  According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, there are 5,344 total COVID-19 deaths in Arizona as of Sept. 15. 71% of these deaths are of those 65 years or older.

As we work through identifying our losses, we should be “in the process of accepting life as it is, not how we wish it would be,” said Barrett. He added that this helps us advance with our life and strengthens us.

However, these principles cannot be cultivated without good habits. That is why the idea of self-care is essential.

“Self-care is not selfish,” he said. “We have to take care of ourselves if we’re going to be there for others.”

Some of these tips include:

• Finding your positive voice

• Having a daily plan

• Maintaining your environment

• Managing anxiety as it occurs

• Eating a healthy diet

• Starting a gratitude journal

• Considering fostering an animal

• Following the safety recommendations from the CDC

These tips can be used not only as a tool for self-care but also as a resource that caregivers can implement in the facilities in which they work.

One example of how caregivers for long-term care facilities have applied these tips in creative ways for their residents was mentioned by an audience member at the end of the presentation. She said that the facility she works at recently adopted some baby chickens. This was to help residents deal with the feelings of isolation that have come with the restrictions of visitors.

The application of these practices and principles of thought will not eliminate one’s grief altogether, but it should leave a lasting impact on an individual.

“I’m not here to tell anyone how to grieve, your own thoughts and feelings will guide you and give you direction for that,” said Barrett. “But as you grieve, I want your grieving to have a particular quality, and that quality is one of hope.”