The current pandemic affects us all. We live with handwashing, sanitisers and the fear of infection. Illness and bereavement that started as statistics on the news arrived on our doorsteps and have torn the lives of many apart. Making ends meet has become a mega issue for people who never thought it would happen to them. Lockdown and social distancing continue to add to the anguish of a bereaved neighbour. Friends are distressed because their children have not been coping well.

We’ve all lost our normal daily lives, which is a significant loss. We all face uncertainty about the future – and more changes. This takes its toll: we are tired with all the extra daily decisions, frustrated with the complications we face, angry about things we can’t do. We may look for someone to blame or take it out on others. Worries rob us of sleep or cause nightmares. We feel isolated from friends, family and colleagues. We all need help to get through this. Sometimes we wish we knew where to start. The degree varies, but this is trauma.

Traumatised people need three things on their journey of recovery, according to Dr Diane Langberg, a co-chair of the advisory council of the Trauma Healing Institute (THI) and author of Suffering and the Heart of God:

  1. Talking: they need to talk about their experiences, what happened and how it affected them.
  2. Tears: emotions need to be expressed. Locking them away only stacks up trouble for later.
  3. Time: recovery is a journey. There will be twists and turns but it does come to an end. 

The THI is expanding its range of materials tailored towards helping people recover from natural and man-made disasters, and has recently launched Healing from the Distress of the COVID-19 Crisis.

As a THI facilitator I helped with a Zoom group pilot of the resource, which provides discussion material for small groups, to help them begin to heal from the spiritual and emotional effects of the pandemic. The mix of mental healthcare principles with wisdom and comfort from the Bible enables all Christians to find help for themselves and to get alongside others in simple but effective ways. I would love to do something like this with our church,” wrote one person who took part in the pilot. 

A month on and, as I get ready to start my first COVID-19 healing group with my home group from St. Mary’s, Cogges, next week, I’ve just used the new version with another Zoom group, and it’s even better. One participant, Maria, commented,When lockdown first hit, I was overwhelmed with childcare and work responsibilities suddenly being mixed together, as well as a personal fear that the illness would hit me and my loved ones.

I hadn’t thought that I needed any healing… This workshop was a breath of fresh air… Now I feel I can and should allow myself time to reflect on my feelings and how hard it’s been, and that while God doesn’t promise to take my hardship away, His love is more than enough to sustain me with each day.”

Jeremy has also found the course an invaluable help in his healing process: Having lost someone close to me to COVID-19, this course helped me to spend some time thinking about and praying through my loss, and gave me tools with which to properly process my loss. I’d recommend this course to anyone who has lost a loved one during the pandemic.”

It’s advisable that established group leaders in local churches should experience a healing group’ together for themselves first, before co-leading groups for church members. And, of course, follow the church’s normal safeguarding procedures. (Evangelical Alliance member Christian Safeguarding Services shares how to keep healthy church practices during the COVID-19 crisis.)

Our approach to running the course

We covered the material in three Zoom sessions of 60 – 90 minutes; 75 minutes allows for fuller discussion and any technical issues. For physical groups I’d suggest an hour – maybe plus some time for a cuppa. It’s also possible to do all six sections in one two-hour session.

The other materials are: 

  • A Beyond Disaster postcard can be given caringly to someone in survival’ mode soon after a crisis. 
  • Peace be Still: A Family Guide to Living in Crazy Days helps individual families talk about their reactions to the situation, gently bringing God and Jesus into the picture. 
  • The Beyond Disaster booklet is useful after a COVID-19 healing group. Or it can be used separately, individually or in group discussions, as a guide for spiritual first aid. Best when the initial shock has passed, but there is never a time when it’s too late’ to use it. A small handbook provides useful guidelines and advice for group use. 

All these materials can be downloaded free of charge. If you have any queries about the material or how to use it in your context, you can get in touch by email.

We’ve all lost our normal daily lives, which is a significant loss. We all face uncertainty about the future – and more changes.