COVID-19 has hit families in the Lakeway Area like nothing else in recent history.
So far, 112 Hamblen County residents have passed from COVID-19. Grief for these families is nothing like grieving before the pandemic.
Many times, individuals have died alone without family members present to say goodbye. The aftermath has also been painful.
Smoky Mountain Home Health and Hospice has produced a video featuring members of the community, along with clergy, a chaplain and two funeral directors expressing support and compassion for these families.
The video was produced ahead of an upcoming drive-by event from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 11 at Smoky Mountain HHH’s Morristown office at 506 West Morris Boulevard.
“We ultimately came up with the video because we were trying to reach patients and families and we wanted to extend our hand out to anybody who is grieving a loss of a loved one,” Rachel Jones, community educator at Smoky Mountain HHH said. “This is a whole different grieving process. People are dying alone and these families are grieving differently.”
Rachel Jones said that at the drive-by event, hospice will present a packet of information on how to work through grief, a packet of resources, including a list of churches and pastors. The SMHHH chaplains will also be available to offer prayer if needed.
Featured in the video, which is available online at www.citizentribune.com, are Jones, Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System Chaplain Jonathan Bewley (one of two MHHS chaplains employed there), Pastor Dean Haun of First Baptist Church, Tony Buchanan of Manley Baptist Church and Justin Graham of The Avenue Church. Also appearing are Cody Morelock of Mayes Mortuary and Rev. Tim Jones of Westside Chapel Funeral Home.
Rachel Jones wants those who are grieving to know that they are not alone.
“We wanted to pull from different sources, we’re here for you, but there are other people who are rooting for you as well,” she said. “Whenever we do things, if we just touch one person, we feel that we’ve done our job.”
The video highlights programs for grieving offered by many agencies and churches.
Bewley highlighted how MHHS continues to help patients and their families.
“We want to take care of you as patients and loved ones, but we do understand what it is to have grief in your life and to lose those who are precious to you. Not only are we here for you to help take care of you, but even in the season of grief, we want to be there for you as well.”
Bewley said that MHHS has two chaplains on call anytime for those who need them.
Morelock said that he sees grief from families in many aspects.
“However, 2020 (was) particularly difficult for our families. Not only are they grieving the loss of their loved one, they are unable to have standard services to process their grief in ways they normally would due to the pandemic,” Morelock said. “It has changed the way we operate here in the funeral home, it has changed the ways for our families to grieve for their loved ones. We offer grief support resources, handouts we can provide to you should you need those, please feel free to reach out to us. We can also provide grief support as part of our after program once we served you and your loved ones.”
Buchanan said that his church offers several ministries to help those coping with grief.
“We have a ministry called ’Grief Share’ that meets on Wednesdays,” he said. “It’s taught by one of our laypeople and it helps you walk through your grief process with others who are going through it.”
Buchanan also said that Manley has counseling service, including any of their ministers who “would be happy to sit down talk and listen.”
Haun agreed that the last year has been tough with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sometimes the grief has been so strong we can barely function, get out of our homes because that sense of loss and separation has been so strong. I’m glad to say we have a great counseling ministry,” Haun said.
The Life Source counseling ministry employs five counselors who are standing by to help those in their grief through prayer and counseling to let those know that “they are not alone.”
“Our entire church prays every day for those who have lost loved ones,” Haun said.
Rev. Tim Jones looks back at his business, founded by the late Rev. J.B. and Marie Gulley, as being both a business and a ministry to the community.
“J.B. Gulley taught us to be a ministry to our community. Our goal as a business and ministry is to try to meet the needs of the families in our community. Obviously, during the time of death, we know how difficult it can be. We want not to just be able to minister to a family with encouragement and help during a very hard time, but we want them to know that we will be here afterwards.”
Tim Jones said that grief is always a part of our lives.
“There’s no grief that’s worse than when we have to go through a death of a loved one,” he said. “As an ordained minister, many times, I have the opportunity to talk to people during the times of death and even afterwards. I hope in that experience, I can be helpful to those people just because that’s the call that’s on my life as well.”
Graham said that life is good, but it can also be challenging.
“We want to extend a hand of love to you and let you know that we’re here for you,” Graham said. “Grief is very hard to deal with loss, struggles and dealing with difficulties. We have many things to offer at The Avenue Church that can be a resource to you.”
A “Widow’s Life” group is available to those who have experienced loss. There are also many other different life groups at The Avenue.
“People are who you need to be around, to be surrounded with during this time,” Graham said. “Don’t isolate yourself.”
Graham also said that those needing clothing or food can look forward to the opening of a new weekly Avenue Outreach Center in March.