VANCOUVER, Wash. — Many who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 are finding it especially difficult to process their grief. Not just because of their loss, but because they weren’t able to gather with others due to social distancing restrictions. That meant no funerals or family gatherings and in many cases, no closure.
“Some people have never had a chance to say goodbye so we thought, this isn't right. We have to do something here,” said Colleen Storey, outreach supervisor at PeaceHealth Hospice in Vancouver. “It touched all of the counselors—our hearts—so much."
Storey said she remembered labyrinth walks, an ancient healing exercise focused on prayer, reflection and meditation. It plays on how labyrinths are designed—one way in, one way out—and unlike mazes, there are no dead ends.
“But yet we go into the labyrinth and we're walking and it turns back in on itself,” said Storey. “So we think we're starting to get through this grief and then now we're back where we started again and it’s a journey of ebbing and flowing.”
On Wednesday, Storey and the staff at PeaceHealth Hospice set up a healing labyrinth walk in their parking lot and invited the public to walk through it. Victoria Soto and her daughter Michelle were anxious to give it a try. Victoria lost her husband, Pedro Soto, to COVID-19 on Thanksgiving night.
“I need help to understand why he's gone and to believe that he's gone and to accept that he's gone,” said Victoria Soto. “I just kind of heard [the labyrinth] might help so I'm here to get help!”
For daughter Michelle, the recent resurgence of COVID cases has triggered her grief, as many continue to avoid getting vaccinated and wearing masks.
“It just frustrates me so much because I lost my dad," said Michelle. "I'm just hoping to process some of that."
It's what Storey hopes for them as well, with every step and turn they take.
“Hopefully find some meaning, some purpose,” said Storey, “Some healing by walking the labyrinth.”
PeaceHealth Hospice is hosting two more healing labyrinth walks. The event on Wednesday, August 18, will focus on anyone in the community who’s lost someone. The event on Wednesday, August 25, it will focus on those who have lost someone to suicide. Each event will run from 7:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. in the parking lot at 5400 MacArthur Boulevard in Vancouver. Attendees are asked to wear a mask, observe social distancing be symptom-free.