Nurse practitioner Kellie Simmons-Massey watched her father as he walked into the hospital, both certain that his symptoms indicated he was in no danger of having COVID-19. That was the last time she saw him in person.
Simmons-Massey, from Philadelphia, has worked at her local hospital for more than two decades. Her father’s death is just one of the many losses she has personally experienced over the course of the pandemic. “When he got sick, I saw what COVID truly did to a human being firsthand,” she said. “It really took a toll, and I don’t feel like I’m the same.”
Now Simmons-Massey found herself facing a new variant as cases rose across Pennsylvania. “There’s been no letup mentally. I don’t seem to be able to get a break,” she said.
“I just think that everybody’s burnt out because it’s been so long and so drawn out. Every time we think there’s some kind of reprieve, it’s not. People just want to live again, to be outside, to congregate.”
Simmons-Massey credits her faith as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for helping her and other health care workers in her religious community survive the ongoing toll of the pandemic. “One of my constants is prayer. I pray before I go to work; I pray during work, and I pray when I come home. Asking Jehovah to help me with my anxiety.”
American psychological and psychiatric associations, while not advocating or endorsing any specific religion, acknowledge the role spirituality and religious faith can play in coping with distress and trauma.
Lawrence Onoda, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Mission Hills, California, noted some ways spirituality can help, including giving people “a positive hope and meaning toward life, comfort by looking for answers and strength from a higher power, and a collective shared experience of support and community.”
Along with prayer, Simmons-Massey has also found invaluable comfort in her hope for the future. Recalling some of her darkest days, “I had to put myself in a little cocoon and just focus on what was positive. And that was thinking about a future hope,” she said.
She said she takes every opportunity she has to share what has given her comfort with others. Simmons-Massey finds joy in sharing the hope she has with her community, knowing how vital it has been in keeping her calm. “Rather than consuming myself with the here and now, I always think about the hope for the future.”
This opinion piece was submitted by Maurice Duncan, Public Communications Market Coordinator, Public Information Desk, United States Branch, Jehovah’s Witnesses. Opinions expressed are not necessarily the opinions of the publishers and editors of this publication, the Southwest Globe Times.