My experience during this pandemic has brought many challenges and difficulties to mind, but what I have been most convicted of is the real, tangible impact of the virus on our society, on our culture and on our spiritual lives.

We are only just seeing the beginning of this. I believe that we haven’t recognised the heavy burdens placed on healthcare staff during this time, and there will be many challenging conversations over the coming years as we fully process this season. My role as a spiritual care coordinator and the kind of work that we do at Marie Curie Hospice in Penarth, Wales, is by nature very much a ministry of presence, which in this current season of social distancing has been particularly difficult to adapt to. We have had to rethink how we care for those who are in the final stages of life.

I support families and patients and staff, and all have come with their own set of challenges in this season. In terms of our patients and their loved ones, I have been quite convicted by the injustice of not being able to honour the dying and their families’ need for grief and mourning in the same way we normally would. Despite recognising the need for social distancing and limiting attendees at funerals or ceremonies for health reasons, it feels unjust to not give people the time and space to grieve and mourn – spiritually, emotionally and psychologically, as it is a huge part of healing.

As it stands, only closest family may attend funerals. Thinking about how many
other people might typically attend a funeral, such as friends, distant family or colleagues, it saddens me to think that these people are deprived of this opportunity and that we cannot support them when there is great need at this time. Death has become particularly confronting as a result of this virus.

If I consider our staff and other healthcare workers on the frontline, I struggle with the expectation placed on those who are caring for COVID-19 patients without the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). We have seen this firsthand in our centres. We have cared for COVID patients, and we have also lost several colleagues to this virus due to a lack of PPE. That saddens me greatly. 

We send them into battle’ without the appropriate equipment to protect them, when they are already giving back so much to their community, and that feels unjust in some ways. I wonder how we will look back on this period and the dedication and sacrifice that many of our healthcare workers have given. The mental, emotional and physical effect due to the expectations placed on the workers is huge, and it seems like we won’t see the real effects of this demand for years to come.

As difficult as it is to not be free to sit at somebody’s bedside, or to hold their hand if they are questioning or in pain, I have found hope and peace in knowing that as Christians we hold fast to the promise that God will bring forth good out of this season, and that God is with our patients all the more, especially if we cannot be.

As a society and as a church, we are often poorly equipped to deal with death, with the fear, the questions and the concerns that come with it – whether people have a faith or not. As the church, we have a real opportunity here to speak into this space and to be hope and reassurance in death specifically, as it has become such a present’ issue in our world and our lives.

It is my hope and my prayer that as people of faith we are able to point to the hope that we have in Jesus, and that we are able to prepare ourselves well for conversations around death and the fear in that, but most importantly the hope that we have in our Lord and Saviour.

Claire Wretham spoke to Christine Uhlig, who served as research assistant at the Evangelical Alliance Scotland from 2019 to 2020.

I have found hope and peace in knowing that as Christians we hold fast to the promise that God will bring forth good out of this season.