We are up to the challenge

These are difficult times in our community, as we all are witness to an event none of us could have imagined as few as five years ago: our community hospital is facing bankruptcy as its employees strive diligently to save both patients and their workplace. In the months ahead, as we work through the process needed to keep health care in our community, we will collectively experience the five stages of loss and grief. To help myself through this process, I researched these stages, so thought it may be helpful if I shared what I learned. Let me stress that I have no background in psychology but am simply a retiree trying to work through my own feelings as I come to terms with the loss of my workplace and the stability it brought to my life and to the lives of my co-workers.

Stage One is Denial. In this stage, our world becomes overwhelming, we are in a state of shock, and we wonder how we can, or even why we should, go on. We try to find a way to simply get through each day.

Stage Two is Anger. Anger has no limits. Underneath anger is pain. We need to allow ourselves to feel and express our anger to release ourselves from the pain of our loss. While anger is natural and necessary, it also needs to pass.

Stage Three is Bargaining. We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements. We want life returned to what is was; we want to go back in time so we can do things differently to avoid the present situation. Guilt is often bargaining’s companion. We may find fault in ourselves and what we think we could have done differently or better.

Stage Four is Depression. This is an appropriate response to a great loss and places us squarely in the present trying to deal with each day. Empty feelings present themselves, and our changed world can feel overwhelming.

Stage Five is Acceptance. We realize that life as we knew it is not going to return, and we now need to make our way in a different world. We cannot bring back the past for it has been forever changed. We learn to readjust.

These stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another. We do not leave one stage behind as we enter another, but rather we may feel one, then another and back again to the first one.

Together as employees and as a community, we built an award-winning hospital in which we could all take pride. Together we faced the challenges that enabled us to provide quality healthcare to our families, friends and neighbors. For 66 years we brought babies into the world, healed wounds, cured illness and comforted families as they faced the loss of a loved one. Together we made a difference in each other’s lives and helped to create a healthier community for everyone.

The journey ahead is uncharted; no one has experience in the bankruptcy or Chapter 11 processes. But it is a journey that must be made if we are to keep a much-needed health care presence in our community. I believe that we are all up to the challenge, but the trip will be a lot easier when we pull together and give the best of ourselves for the good of all.