Virtual care offered for families of pandemic victims

CLEVELAND — The American Red Cross of Northern Ohio has launched a Virtual Family Assistance Center to support families struggling with loss and grief during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Those interested can visit redcross.org/get-help to access a support hub with special virtual programs, information, referrals and services to support families in need.

Those without internet access can call 1-833-492-0094 for help.

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Expert guide to talking to kids about death during Covid-19

It’s natural for parents to want to protect children from the feelings of worry and distress we are experiencing during this pandemic, but decades of research underscores that being honest with children is the best way to mitigate feelings of anxiety and confusion during uncertain times.

Even young kids are aware of the changes in the emotional states of adults and will notice the absence of regular caregivers, including grandparents.

So how do we talk to kids about death and dying during the coronavirus crisis? These are tough talks, no doubt about it. Here are six guiding principles, with sample prompts and scripts, to keep in mind.

Continued – Talking to kids about death:

Nuns on ‘front lines’ of coronavirus pandemic

ROME – As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, women religious throughout the world have been working in areas such as prevention and awareness, and caring for the poor, sick and elderly.

Speaking to Crux, Sister Pat Murray, executive secretary of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), said their communities “are on the front lines” of both efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and to care for those who are ill.

“They are, because they’re preparing for (it) or they’re healing, so they are very much part of the front-line response, particularly in the poorer part of the world,” Murray said.

An umbrella group of women religious, the UISG oversees roughly 2,000 different women’s religious congregations worldwide, each of which have their own communities spread throughout the globe that are working in different ways to combat the coronavirus.

Many sisters, Murray said, are working as either doctors or nurses, often in small rural hospitals in Africa and Asia as well as medical clinics, healthcare centers and mobile clinics providing education and medical assistance to those in need.

While in the Global North sisters have already been engaged in fighting the coronavirus, in other parts of the world nuns are busily preparing for an outbreak by trying to procure equipment for the centers in which they work, “which in some cases is very difficult,” Murray said, noting that many sisters in the Global South have found sourcing equipment such as ventilators and facial masks extremely difficult.

As a result, they have at times gone to individual homes to help families make their own medical masks for protection.

Sisters have also been active in slums and small villages in poor countries, carrying out education campaigns on proper sanitation and distributing government leaflets about precautions to take. They have also taken the time to explain the measures to those who cannot read.

Murray cited a specific example of sisters in Africa who, in one area with a single water pump that people had to walk long distances to get to, built a small wooden frame with a plastic water jug attached and brought it to nearby villages to demonstrate proper handwashing. In India, sisters have drawn lines in the sand at food distribution centers so that those who come engage in social distancing, rather than crowding around trying to get to the head of the line.

Not only are the sisters working local NGOs and other organizations to distribute food, but in some cases, Murray said she’s heard of sisters who share their own food with the poor, “going out onto the streets” and offering some of what they have to beggars and those who cannot afford groceries.

For sisters who work in schools or with parishes, they have found “creative ways” of continuing their programs, Murray said, noting that like many other teachers and companies, the sisters in these cases have not only launched online courses, but they are also providing online spiritual direction and mentorship and are leading online prayer sessions and retreats.

They are also making an effort to be in touch with the elderly to ensure they are not alone, and those who work with refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking have all found ways to stay in touch and check in to make sure that these people are okay.

The sisters, Murray said, not only provide food, medical supplies and training, but they also try to be “a praying presence, a supporting presence, a presence of hope and reassuring people that they are not alone.”

Noting how the eruption of contagion inside convents has been a major concern in countries such as Italy, Spain and the United States which have been more severely hit by the coronavirus, particularly European communities that have high numbers of elderly, Murray said there have been many deaths among sisters, but the UISG does not keep track.

“Each religious congregation is autonomous, even if they are members of UISG, so we would find that very intrusive, because behind every sister that dies there is the whole community and the whole congregation; there’s her family, there’s the people she knows in ministry.”

“We would know because we’re in contact with some communities, but we have no sense of the overall and nor would we seek it,” she said, insisting that “Each loss is huge for a community, particularly in these kind of situations where the normal practices of being able to bury a sister, like for families worldwide, has been interrupted.”

Calling the pandemic “a time of grief and sadness,” Murray said religious communities are no different than families. There is even a “double-weight” when a sister dies, she said, because both their immediate family and their religious family suffer.

In terms of precautions they are taking, Murray said the sisters are following the regulations in the countries where they live but are generally all engaged in basic sanitation practices such as frequent handwashing, wearing face masks and social distancing…

How to cope with Coronavirus crisis effectively

Are We Grieving? Interestingly, I have been hearing this word grief being thrown around in the media and Facebook a lot more recently. I might be more sensitive to these conversations because dealing with grief is such a significant part of my career…or it may be because I am …

Although most, if not all of us have never experienced any event even similar to this [Covid-19] Pandemic, if we can name some of our emotions, we can use tools that have proven helpful and even healing for processing grief and possibly even trauma.

Some of these tools may be:

  • Finding safe ways to move the emotion from internal to external i.e. Physically communicating our feelings with words, artistic and/or musical expression, physical movement/exercise, journaling.
  • Creating simple daily routines, i.e. Waking and going to sleep at same times, scheduling mealtimes, having a time set aside daily for fun, possibly even
  • Scheduling time …  more:

Iowa Mom who lost son in Afghanistan is making masks to fight coronavirus spread

Helping Others Through Your Grief

The grief creeps up on Susie Ristau in the quiet moments.

And the quiet moments in her Cascade home come more often during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ristau was leading homeschooling for her four grandchildren in the mornings. By afternoon, she would feel anxious and depressed.

Her memories would drift to 2012, the day two U.S. Army officers came to tell her that her son, Michael Ristau, had been killed while serving in Afghanistan.

“It’s the kind of grief you never get over,” Ristau said. “It’s just your new normal.”

About a week into the pandemic, Ristau decided she was sick of sadness. She decided to use her grief as motivation…