This summer is like no other. We are restricted in our movements and some elements of lockdown will most probably still be with us for some time. Summer holidays are likely to be different with more staycations in the UK or even at home, and less milling around in crowded airports.
The experience is dependent upon circumstance and there are as many configurations of this as there are individuals – living arrangements, outside space, isolation or company, working or not, and living with illness, disability and bereavement… every individual will have their own struggles as well as joys.
The old expression “glass half empty, or glass half full” applies to us all as well. Our outlook on life will dictate how we cope when life is less than rosy. Some will naturally hear the birds sing louder and see the blossom on the trees, and others will focus on the all too depressing economic situation. Some will view lockdown as lost time together, and others will embrace technology or old-fashioned communication methods, whilst planning a grand reunion in the months to come.
St Richard’s Hospice is supporting people through their coronavirus experiences, but we are also continuing to support people through their experiences of serious progressive illness. There are parallels in the way that we cope with pandemic and illness and it is important that we each find our own way to feel inner peace.
The Chaplaincy Department at St Richard’s offers spiritual support to patients, as well as to relatives, friends, staff and volunteers. Chaplaincy and spirituality are misunderstood terms with some people feeling that chaplains are only about religion, and others feeling that religion is being pushed out because of the all-embracing enthusiasm for spirituality. Neither of those things are true. The truth is that chaplains really are there for everyone and can support you whatever your faith or world-view.
Spirituality can be described as “that bit inside us which makes us whole, renews, lifts up, comforts, heals and inspires”. However you define it, I believe that we all have a spirituality. Some will access it through a belief in God and others will not – that is perfectly fine from a chaplain’s point of view. Serious progressive illness brings us face to face with death and it can be a time to consider our spiritual lives. The time to prepare for a good death is a gift.
A person may want to put their life in order, perhaps address paperwork, or memory work in order to leave something special for loved ones, reconcile a relationship, seek forgiveness, or offer forgiveness. These things help to give us inner peace. Mindful activities that absorb us and take us out of ourselves can also help us to find inner peace – creating or looking at artwork, sitting or walking in the garden, watching the birds, smelling the flowers, having a complimentary therapy treatment. Our spiritual selves can also be nurtured by achieving all that we want to.
Even when seriously unwell, whilst managing expectations, it may still be possible to achieve goals, to learn something or teach something, to stroke a horse instead of ride one, to have a visit from a rugby team, to receive a letter from an international superstar, to travel in virtual reality or whatever.
Hospices can achieve great things, but we all can as individuals, even if we are not seriously ill or in need of hospice care. Who is truly important to you? What causes, activities and interests will make you feel whole and fulfilled? What needs putting right in your life? If you are pre-disposed to being a glass half empty person, could you find one thing every day that you can be thankful for?
May I encourage you to use this strange and quieter time to think about your own inner peace, and may I wish you all a productive and spiritual summer.
Canon Clare Griffiths, Lead Chaplain, St Richard’s Hospice