During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hospice of Cincinnati (HOC) served as one of the major hubs that cared for COVID patients who were dying, providing end of life care for more than 400 people, according to Patty Daum, manager of psychosocial and spiritual services with HOC.
That level of unexpected death was traumatic for HOC staff members who also had to help families navigate visitor policies impacted by COVID protocols. “We were trying to … mitigate the trauma at end of life for patients and families, but then experiencing that ourselves,” Patty says.
Dealing with trauma of COVID-19 pandemic
As the second year of the pandemic was ending, it was clear that the pandemic had truly impacted HOC staff. Patty explains, “We realized that we needed to do something very different and very novel in trying to help people process what they’d experienced, so they could keep doing the good work that they had always done, the work that they loved, the work that they felt called to.”
When she reached out to Mary Laymon (left), owner of Tikkun Farm in Mt. Healthy (and WeTHRIVE!℠ Mt. Healthy team member), there was an immediate connection. Mary understood Patty’s desire to help HOC employees increase their capacity for joy in the workplace.
“Like many other healthcare professionals, the hospice workers were having to deal with people who denied that COVID existed, and they also had to deal with families who couldn’t spend time with loved ones in hospice,” Mary says. “Their work is to make the dying process as compassionate as possible and as connected as possible. For them, of all healthcare workers, not having family members able to come be there was probably the worst part of COVID. It sort of robbed them of why they exist in so many ways.”
Mary and Patty worked together to create the J.O.Y. Retreats at Tikkun Farm. JOY stands for Just Open Yourself.
Retreats are a chance to pause and reflect
“The retreats are an opportunity to pause and reflect,” Mary says. “You need to be given permission to not just rush into life after COVID, but to actually pause and reflect on what just happened.”
Reflection means answering questions such as:
- What did I learn from this?
- How am I different?
- What do I know now that I didn’t know before?
- What can I celebrate?
After reflecting, it’s time to look forward: “Given what I’ve learned, what will I take into the next season?”
All of this work is done as participants immerse themselves in an array of activities and opportunities offered at the retreats, from creativity, movement, and meditation to enjoying nature and spending time with the farm animals.
“Working with Mary, it isn’t just talking or it isn’t just being in nature or creativity,” Patty explains. “She really touched so many points for so many people, that it seemed like almost anyone could find a place to connect and experience healing.”
Healing begins with a simple meal
The first experience participants have at the farm is a home-cooked dinner that’s prepared for them by Tikkun staff. “Just from that first moment of coming in and being fed this really nice, homemade meal, people are phenomenally touched,” Patty says.
Food is part of the healing process. Mary explains, “It’s a way of saying ‘you’re loved.’ They see that someone took time to nourish them.”
Retreats are life-changing
More than 250 HOC staff members have attended a JOY Retreat since spring of 2022. “People from every level of our organization have the opportunity to go,” Patty says. “It’s an offering that most of them didn’t have any experience with. They didn’t know what to expect, they really didn’t have any expectations, and they have just been floored with how much it has helped.”
Here are comments shared by participants:
- I knew that I needed to do something different, but I didn’t know what or how. I now have the tools to move forward. This has been life-changing for me.
- I’m going to be able to stay in the work. I now know what is important, how to prioritize and create space for well-being. And how to let go of some of the things I have no control over and be at peace.
- I learned that I wasn’t alone.
- Just being with the animals gave me so much peace. I know that I need to create more time for things that bring me peace and I am committed to doing that.
- This was so powerful. I can’t put into words how much this has positively impacted me.
- It helped me so much to talk with my peers, to spend time together, and to really talk about things.
Tikkun Farm honored to care for caregivers
The Tikkun Farm team felt honored to host the hospice workers. “They saw it as a privilege, to be able to welcome them to a space where they could rest and refresh,” Mary says. “It’s been such a gift to the farm and to me personally to be given the opportunity to lead people through this kind of a process. I’ve been so grateful to Patty for her willingness to invite me into this. It’s what the farm wants to be about, … we want to be about healing and restoring things, and offering our space for that purpose. And hospice has been willing to trust us with that.”
Hospice of Cincinnati (HOC) just celebrated 45 years of service. It is the fourth oldest hospice in the country and the oldest in the Cincinnati region. Learn more at the HOC website.
Tikkun Farm is a non-profit urban farm in Mt. Healthy. Learn more at TikkunFarm.com.
Editor’s note: On December 24, Tikkun Farm’s main house, living space, and headquarters suffered a devastating fire. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Many of the Farm’s programs will continue as they rebuild. Stay posted by following Tikkun Farm on Facebook.