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When someone loses their connection to body, self, people, life, or soul, they need to reconnect. We want to normalize and validate someone’s personal emotions, provide a safe place for expression, and to always give ourselves and others grace and mercy.

Published Apr 2nd, 2024

By Kim Crawford Meeks
Spiritual Health & Counseling Manager

“REACH – Reaching out to offer hope and receive hope” is the name of a presentation I have offered for many years. Hope is such a vital part of our lives as we leave yesterday behind, cope with today, and move forward to tomorrow. The Meaningful Reflection article for the next three months will be based on the “Reach” presentation as we move into Mental Health Awareness Month in May. The presentation will be offered for all employees to sign up for if they choose, and dates and times will be announced soon.   

In the REACH presentation we cover:   

  • R – Reality of being human 
  • E – Emotions 
  • A – Assessing for distress 
  • C – Connections 
  • H – Hope 

Our Meaningful Reflections in March covered “reality of being human" and "emotions."

For April, let’s look at “Assessing for Distress” and “Connections.” To reach out and offer hope to others, it is helpful to identify signs of distress.   

Assessing for Distress

7 Possible Signs of Distress:   

  • Crying: We cry because we are mad, sad, glad, scared, or feeling many other emotions. Unfortunately, we have a common opinion in our society that tears are a sign of weakness or instability. I propose that it takes more courage to express our tears than to suppress them. I often have family members of patients apologize for crying while standing at the bedside of their loved one who is dying. In my experience in providing support and counseling, most people apologize for crying, and they may say they feel they are being viewed as weak, silly, or lacking faith for their expression of tears. Tears are certainly not weakness, but instead they are expressions of our hearts and a release and sharing of emotion.
  • Fear: If someone expresses fear(s), they may be in distress and reaching out for help. Even irrational fears are very rational to the person who struggles with them. Fears are very real and can cause many challenges in moving forward in life.    
  • Loneliness: Having a support system is a true blessing in life. Some people do not have anyone at all, and others may have family, but they are not able to be present at the hospital. Loneliness can cause anxiety and depression and is certainly a sign of distress.   
  • Anxiety: One of my main goals in life is to educate others that anxiety is very real, and we all have anxiety about something. There are great medications and counseling to help with anxiety, but we need to begin by giving ourselves permission to have some anxiety.    
  • Confused about options: Many years ago, patients and families did not have a voice in their healthcare decisions. We now often receive the options that are available and may get to choose which path to take. Being a part of the decision process is everyone’s right, but it also may cause distress.   
  • Family issues: Where there are families, there are issues. We all have something at some point to deal with within our family systems. Sometimes the legal next of kin tells everyone what the decision will be, but all are not in agreement. The disunity in families may cause distress.   
  • Change: Having a new “normal” is very difficult and can happen in a moment due to an accident or unforeseen circumstance. A major life event can certainly cause distress.   


As we journey through life, we want to build relationships, and we certainly have connections with others while working in healthcare. We want to provide a safe space to establish trust. We do this through showing up, caring, being kind and respectful, and saying the right thing when someone is in distress.   

What NOT to say to those in distress: 

  • Just get over it. 
  • Calm down.  
  • Don’t cry. 
  • Be strong. 
  • I know how you feel. 
  • It’s OK…shhhh. 
  • Let it go.   

What to say to those in distress: 

  • It is OK to cry. 
  • I’m here. 
  • Tell me about it. 
  • I’m listening. 
  • Help me to understand. 
  • I would say something, but there may not be words for how you feel. 
  • Allow silence. Say nothing.   

“Spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.”  (From the 2009 National Consensus Conference: Improving Quality Spiritual Care as a Domain of Palliative Care.)   

“Trauma is about loss of connection from one’s body, from one’s sense of self, from other people, from life, from soul,” said author and psychotherapist Peter Levine, Ph.D. 

When someone loses their connection to body, self, people, life, or soul, they need to reconnect. We want to normalize and validate someone’s personal emotions, provide a safe place for expression, and to always give ourselves and others grace and mercy.    

We need to reach out and provide hope to help others along their journey of healing and meaning. In May in the Meaningful Reflections article, we will look more at offering hope and how to build your own Hope Toolbox.   

Reach out to offer hope and receive hope.

Learn more about Spiritual Health and Counseling at USA Health. Patients, family members, and USA Health associates are encouraged to call the Meaningful Reflections Line at 251-445-9016 for a daily recorded word of encouragement.  

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