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Bereavement Support During Ongoing Pandemic at Valley Baptist Health System

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Bereavement is the process they journey through, said former Valley Baptist Health System Vice President Mission & Ministry Joe Perez. Image for illustration purposes.
Bereavement is the process they journey through, said former Valley Baptist Health System Vice President Mission & Ministry Joe Perez. Image for illustration purposes.

Mega Doctor News

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HARLINGEN & BROWNSVILLE – William Shakespeare’s keen observation of life is articulated in his statement,“He who lacks time to mourn, lacks time to mend.”  

True for both adults and children, the awareness of how to properly care for grief is important to holistic health. When a person experiences significant loss of a person or something important, bereavement is the process they journey through, said former Valley Baptist Health System Vice President Mission & Ministry Joe Perez.

“During this COVID-19 era, many people are journeying through the season of bereavement because they have experienced loss of a special someone. Some individuals and families have experienced multiple losses,” he said. “Others may be fortunate enough to not have lost a loved one, but the pandemic has created for all other kinds of losses, like daily routines, jobs, loss of relational contacts, normal resources for life, and many others.” 

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Grief is normal to the human condition, said Perez, who currently serves as Chief Mission & Ministry Officer at Baptist Health System – a sister system to Valley Baptist located in San Antonio. While feelings of grief are often intensified during the holiday season, Perez said the grief process is unique to each individual person.  As a chaplain, Perez said he has learned that saying the phrase “I know what you’re going through” is not helpful when it comes to helping others cope with grief, because while situations of loss and grief may be similar, the consistency of relationships and circumstances are always different.   

“One may think this is relating, but using this phrase does not invite the one suffering to disclose their thoughts and feelings because they are said to already be known. The result, then, is that the one grieving does not share his/her experience, which impedes the healing process by not allowing the bereaved to process their grief and grow in their ability to cope,” he said.

Perez said that while it can be difficult to help others cope with grief, there are ways to help.

“What can be more helpful is saying something like, ‘I have had a similar experience, but I know everybody’s different. How’s it going for you?’” he said. “If you have not had a similar experience, then simply ask, ‘How’s it going for you?’”  

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Perez said Dr. Alan Wolfelt, an influential educator on death and the grieving process, articulates the healing process through grief as, “Let’s remind ourselves of the importance between the terms grief and mourning. Grief is the internal thoughts and the feelings of loss and pain, whereas mourning is the outward, shared expression of that grief – or grief gone public.  All bereaved families grieve when someone they love dies.  But if they are to heal, they must have a safe, accepting atmosphere in which they can mourn.”

“There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to managing one’s grief from the loss of a love one or the loss of something significant.  At the same time, there are some essentials that help and obstacles that hinder the process to healing,” said Paul Luna, Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville Pastoral Services Supervisor. “The best help is having a safe companion or community of persons to share life’s difficult experiences.”

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has been the isolation that can be experienced during necessary social distancing. While the pandemic disrupted gatherings and in-person support groups, it continues to bring to the forefront new methods of navigating the grieving process together. 

“Keeping safe practices in mind, we need to remember that human beings are meant to be and relate to other human beings as a part of our holistic health. Therefore, we need to be more creative about how we can journey together through these difficult times.  Setting up family and/or friend’s phone or video chat times will assist in keeping our community as well,” Luna said. “Seeing each other stimulates more of our senses to work towards healing. Being in each other’s presence, as it can be done safely, is important as well. Most importantly, if you find yourself isolated, reach out to a trusted family member, friend, or community member as one way to take initiative in your health.”

For those working through the grieving process, Valley Health System’s Pastoral Services Department continues to offer comfort for those seeking bereavement support in the community.  For more information on the service of remembrance or support groups offered at Valley Baptist Health System, call the Valley Baptist Pastoral Services Department at (956) 389-1194 or email pastoralservices@valleybaptist.net.  Also, information about local RGV resources for Children’s Bereavement can be found at https://cbc-rgv.org/our-services.

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