The pathway to mental health

I was in Florida helping my brother with a medical issue. A member of my office team called to inform me that one of our colleagues, a 44-year-old amazing husband, father and community leader had died from complications of Covid.  I was shocked and speechless; how could this happen? It seems so unfair and so random. I was crushed. This news sent me into a grieving process that I could not control. I cried so hard that my body ached. There were no words, just a raw moaning that emanated from the tips of my toes. 

Since I was out of town, I was unable to be with others that were experiencing this pain, struggling to understand why this man who loved God, his wife, his 4 children and his community so well, died. There are just so many questions. I realized I was about to go through the cycle of grief which I have studied and explained to families as an ICU nurse. Even though I knew this, the pain was unbearable with nowhere to go.  None of the people that knew and loved my colleague were with me. I had no one to hug or cry with. All I did is call my team, send texts and cry on the phone. I wanted to fly home immediately to be with my supportive community. 

This is exactly why we so desperately need to live in positive relationships and supportive communities. It is the antidote to grief and suffering. It is what heals and soothes our weary souls. Since this is the essence of mental health, I am concerned that we are continuing to isolate ourselves from others due to the pandemic.  Schools are going virtual again and students continue to be isolated from their friends and supportive communities. The relational pathway to mental health is being stifled once again. 

To diminish the effects of this isolation, we must call each other, text, Facetime and connect frequently. We need to share our pain, sorrows, and losses with those love us. We need to not take anything for granted, being thankful for our connections and relationships. We need to continue to cultivate community support networks. We need to create meaning and purpose for our lives, developing a plan to reach each benchmark towards our hopes and dreams. We need to be grateful for every day and acknowledge how precious and fragile life is. For me, it is moving toward my hope in God and in my faith, knowing that nothing happens without God’s permission.

Grief and suffering are purposeful because they are signals to slow down, think about our lives more introspectively, recalibrate living in a different reality without our friend, partner, or colleague. This is what allows us to bounce back from loss and create a new normal for our lives. Healthy relationships and supportive connections are the shock absorbers when nothing else will do.  

I know in the coming days and weeks the grief that I feel today will lessen. I will never forget my colleague, his smile, his dedication to his calling, his love for his wife, children and family, his laugh as his head went back into a full sense of exuberance and joy, and his purposeful existence to honor God in whatever he did. I do not know why he was taken at such a young age when he had so much to live for. I just know that the community he built through love, healthy relationship development and friendship will help his wife, children and family adjust to this new reality. All who know him will honor him through stories and memories. God has another angel in heaven, and we have a lot of work to do to be supportive and connected to one another during this time of grief and loss.