By Nick Stewart
Due to COVID-19, hospital policies and care delivery have drastically changed. Many once-reliable resources of spiritual care have been stripped away. Gone are the days of the held hand, the gentle consolation of a hug, and even a whole face without a mask. Physical separation of loved ones during an illness removes an important healing resource.
These realities gave birth to the idea of grief kits, so that our spiritual care department could provide meaningful ways for patients and their loved ones to connect. The kits also proved useful resources for the caregiving team members while we chaplains offered our support.
On each unit, we have placed a small plastic tote that includes a battery-powered pillar candle for the clinical unit, a door sign, a sign for the nursing staff, Compassionate Presence certificates, and rose quartz hearts. The candle is lit at the nurses’ station during a death or when a patient is actively dying. The Compassionate Presence certificate is signed by members of the treatment team to tell the patient’s loved ones about the empathetic and intentional care provided by the team. The rose quartz heart, a symbol of unconditional love, fits in the palm of a hand and is given to each patient to remember the bond between them and their loved ones. All of these items intend to acknowledge that despite visitor restrictions, patients still do not die alone.
After a death, the chaplain retrieves the signed Compassionate Presence certificate and rose quartz heart. The chaplain then mails a packet to the loved ones with a letter explaining the contents, acknowledging the presence and care provided to the patient, and the importance of that patient and their life. The packet also contains a replica of the sign placed outside the patient’s room, the explanation of the rose quartz heart, a remembrance poem keepsake, and bereavement resources.
The chaplain calls to confirm a mailing address prior to sending. This serves as an opportunity to provide spiritual care to loved ones who might not have been present in the hospital, assuring that the chaplain still makes a connection and provides care and that the family still has a lasting memory of their loved one in the final moments of life.
Nick Stewart, BCC, is chaplain for Pediatrics and Women’s Services at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte, NC.