Working with 1440 Multiversity on Healing Our Healthcare Heroes
The pandemic has been a frightening time for everyone, but particularly those in healthcare. Healthcare professionals have cared for an overwhelming number of patients despite knowing little about the virus, how it works and the dangers it posed. They have also had to witness the suffering and death of high numbers of their isolated patients with little time to process or grieve, causing trauma and distress. Recent research indicates that a considerable proportion of healthcare workers have experienced depression, anxiety, stress, and sleep disturbances due to their pandemic experiences.
To address this issue, 1440 Multiversity has designed a program called Healing Our Healthcare Heroes. The three-day, holistic residential program provides a place of rest and healing in which participants are offered a number of signature wellbeing sessions such as yoga and mindfulness and a core curriculum that explores Trauma, Resilience, Grief and Healing. Zen Caregiving Project partnered with 1440 Multiversity to design and deliver the Grief and Healing Session as part of the program.
Core elements of our Grief and Healing Session
- Introducing mindfulness as a tool in processing grief and loss. Loss can bring up powerful and uncomfortable emotions. Often our first response is to ignore them or turn away from them as they can be painful or unsettling. This self-protection mechanism is often used by healthcare professionals who see multiple losses each day and yet need to continue their work. Our session in Healing Our Healthcare Heroes shares how to use mindfulness to tune into the emotions of loss and grief, and explore them with curiosity. Being with the emotions of grief allows for their processing. By building capacity to be with strong emotions, they become less disruptive.
- Exploring how to use the body to integrate challenging emotions such as grief. We all experience emotions in physical ways: jaws clenching, fists tightening, heartbeat racing. In our session we share how to tune into these physical sensations as a way to bring oneself into the moment and ride out an emotional wave and anchor oneself to the moment. This is something that can be done easily and discreetly, at any point in the hospital or when seeing a patient.
- Introducing the importance of Self-Compassion. Healthcare professionals are, by their nature, a compassionate group of people. They have been moved to devote their career to caring for and healing others. Often though, it is much easier to show compassion to others than to oneself. In the session we walk participants through a self-compassion exercise, reminding them that they, like other caregivers, have suffered during the pandemic, along with their patients, and they are deserving of their own self-compassion and kindness. In fact, self compassion is essential to build resilience and avoid burnout.
- Using ritual for processing grief. Ritual has been found to be extremely beneficial for processing grief emotions. In the session we explore different grief and loss rituals that could be used in a hospital setting, such as taking five minutes at the end of each day to sit quietly and wish well to those people you have seen that are suffering, or those you have lost. In the session, the instructor also invites participants to take part in a grief ritual, allowing them to remember those that they have lost and to be witnessed in that loss.
- Connection and sharing. As with any course we offer to caregivers, connecting with others who have shared experiences is a vital element of the session. Healthcare workers have an opportunity to share stories and experiences they haven’t previously been able or willing to, as they are among others who understand and deeply empathize. We ensure that our session includes time for participants to share their experiences and interact. These connections both reduce isolation and aid with the healing process.
The Healing Our Healthcare Heroes program launched on April 30 and continues to run with the generous support of healthcare foundations, private donors and philanthropic foundations. This partnership will reach at least 735 healthcare heroes by the end of 2021. If you are interested in contributing to this program as a donor or sponsor, please email CreateHope@1440.org.