Vol. 1, No. 2; June 30, 2020
Ask the Experts | KYLIE CAPPS, LLMSW
Supporting Grief During COVID-19
Q: With so many people experiencing grief right now, it is hard to know how to comfort and support them or deal with my own losses. Social distancing measures are making this especially hard. What do you suggest?
A: This is definitely a difficult time for so many. The variety of grief and loss, whether it is the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of various celebrations, can be overwhelming. There are simple efforts we can take to show our support.
1) The importance of "how are you?" This is one of the greatest ways we can show our support. This may seem like common sense, yet it is not asked as frequently as most would expect. Many times people lovingly reach out to say, "Let me know if you need anything," or "I'm sorry for your loss," but forget to ask the person how they are. Asking someone who is grieving how they are feeling, and taking the time to listen, has a profound impact and truly helps them feel supported.
2) Continued support. Many people have such busy lives that we often show our support by reaching out once, and then moving forward or waiting for a response. However, it is weeks and months after the actual loss that most people experience the heaviest grief and loneliest feelings. This is when the texts, calls, emails, food deliveries, and overall support tends to lessen. Remember to reach out again!
3) Have patience. Grief and loss can significantly change the way a person communicates, thinks or behaves. If someone who is grieving acts out of character, or does not respond to your efforts, this is not because they do not want or need your support. It is because they are overwhelmed. Your efforts will be greatly appreciated in the long-run.
Kylie Capps, LLMSW, is a clinical social worker in private practice in Grosse Pointe Farms. She works with children and teens to provide them with the tools they need to support life-long mental health practices. Kylie can be reached at 313.530.4456, firstname.lastname@example.org or kcappscounseling.com. K. Capps Counseling is a member of The Family Center’s Association of Professionals.
For more on grief and loss during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our resource page: COVID-19 Support
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words and I am comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."
We are surrounded by heroes; their acts of service make our lives and community better. Their courage reminds us all of a Mr. Rogers' quote:
This week we highlight Michelle Petropoulos, DMSc, PA-C, who left her home and family in Grosse Pointe Park in mid-April, to provide care at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. Michelle's family includes her husband, Rob, three children, Alexa, Maya and Noah, and dog, Stella.
We asked Michelle a few questions about her experiences via email:
1) What took you to NY and where did you serve, how long did you stay?
I arrived mid April and am still here. Initially I committed to one week. I was afraid of what I would see and the impact this would have. I knew this experience would leave its mark. When COVID first hit I was still seeing patients in family medicine, transitioning to telemedicine as per guidelines. That question has been asked often, why did I come? The world was coming to a standstill, I had this feeling I wasn't doing enough, I knew I had a skill set that could be better used elsewhere. I am FEMA certified and have studied disaster medicine. The question for me was; How could I stay home? This is what I do, what my profession is all about, I cautiously started the credentialing process for deployment, every second knowing I had the option to back out. When the call came it felt right, oddly even natural as if this is exactly what I was supposed to do. I was still afraid but somehow knew it would be ok.
2) What were the most difficult / most surprising / most inspiring parts of your experiences?
Most difficult (other than being away from family) is clearly all of the death. Watching people come in afraid, decompensate, be placed on a ventilator, then die alone. No visitors were allowed in the hospital. No matter how hard I tried, too many died anyway. There is no cure for a virus, there are various supportive treatments, improve kidney function, give fluid, take fluid, treat co-existing infections, watch labs, fine tune every piece with multiple teams focusing on optimal treatment, this virus took too many lives. There were so many codes called throughout the day, my team would listen in silence those few seconds that seemed to drag on to see if it was one of ours. Some days I'd be here until midnight and back at 7am the next day, the first question always was "who died last night?" At one point, of all the COVID patients on my service we would lose 1-2 daily. We watched this list dwindle down sucking the emotion from all of us. Somehow if we all tried hard enough couldn't we save some, even one? It was the most mentally and physically tired, hungry, thirsty, and defeated I've ever felt.
Most surprising was how desperate New York was for help. The entire city shut down, streets completely empty. Rush hour with zero cars on the road. Times Square empty. Another is how evil COVID can be. This virus does not take a life quickly. It presents, many do fine, until they don't, sometimes weeks after the initial infection. Hospitalizations for 60 and 70 days, complication after complication. Better than worse. Not everyone dies in the same way. We do everything we can, every time. We lost many. One particular patient my team took care of, she was intubated, then extubated, then intubated again. Every time she improved, she would have a setback. That patient was in this hospital for 65 days, once she started to truly improve and talk, we got to know her. We finally had someone that was making it. Last week she sent us pictures of herself with her kids and grandkids. I could barely believe it. She is a star.
Most inspiring is the community here in New York and the colleagues I met here at Bellevue. This was a place of devastation and disaster. Worse than I ever thought I would see. The hospital was filled with providers and healthcare workers like me who came from all over the country to help. It was literally so crazy and busy that I didn't even know the names of those I worked with for the first few weeks, yet we relied on each other. We all jumped onto teams, covered in PPE, it was weeks before I saw anyone's face, but we all worked together. Everyone did everything they knew how to do. We all ran around this huge hospital looking for supplies, finding and using what we could. At the end of the day you would walk out the front door of the hospital to someone handing you Godiva chocolates, an opera singer in the middle of the street and other first responders clapping and cheering for those that showed up day after day. Those who lived in the community would hold up signs and clap and cheer or shout a thank you.
3) What do you think community members could do to help families of frontline workers, or families of those sick - during and after the pandemic?
Respect the guidelines. We as the most advanced country in the world are learning as we go. We all have been touched by this. Wear a mask, wash your hands, don't drop your gloves in a parking lot for someone else to pick up. Believe that together we will make it. Families of frontline workers are put through a lot. Workers often home quarantine to decrease exposure to family, sleep in a separate room, stop hugging their loved ones for fear of exposing them. Say thank you to all essential workers, healthcare, the fire department, those that police our streets, ring up our groceries and work sanitation. All of us have kept our society alive. This virus may knock us down, but our intelligence and determination will prevail. New York has suffered greatly and the rest of the country should benefit from what we have learned.
We salute you, Michelle, and acknowledge your family for supporting your efforts.
Welcome New Board Members
During this time of great uncertainty, The Family Center remains a consistent and committed organization dedicated to serving the families in our community.
This steadfastness is apparent in the upcoming slate of new board members for the 2020-21 fiscal year. Eleven new members join an active, working board. The following community leaders will be voted into service on July 1:
Lynne Merrill Aldrich
Marquita Bedway, PhD, PC
J. Theodore (Ted) Everingham, JD
Marianne Langlois, MSA
Deacon Richard Shubik
LaShanda Thomas, CPA
The Family Center would like to offer a sincere thank you to current board members who will continue to serve in 2020-21: Suzanne Antonelli (President), Julie Huellmantel, Sean Cleland, Joan Ferguson (Treasurer), Paige Niehaus (Secretary), Shane Reeside, Alexander Riegel, Sheila Tomkowiak, and Frank Wilberding.
Supporting Our Teens & Youth During and After COVID-19 - Webinar RECORDING
WHEN: Recorded live on May 19, 2020
WHEN: Recorded live on May 27, 2020
Support Our Mission
The Family Center is a non-profit community organization that provides resources and preventative education to empower families to successfully navigate life's social, emotional, and physical challenges. Help us continue this important work with a donation today.
THE FAMILY CENTER OF GROSSE POINTE AND HARPER WOODS
32 Lake Shore Drive, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan 48236
www.FamilyCenterWeb.org | 313.447.1374