Holding yourself and loved ones with compassion can begin with safe, comfortable, and inviting spaces in the home. Creating space where sheltering-in-place or illness recovery can be fully experienced is an empowering way to validate the physical and emotional challenges while helping all people affected find acceptance with the current reality. Spaces designated for experiencing and healing from trauma and dis-ease can also help encourage rest, reflection, meditation, releasing emotions, movement, reading, and visits with friends and family when sheltering-in-place destruction are lifted.
As someone who is very mindful of spacial relations and enjoys creative expression in the home, one of my earliest actions when learning I was diagnosed with breast cancer was to rearrange and redecorate spaces in my home in preparation for healing from surgery and other heath complications. While we were in heightened states of fear of the unknown, the physical activity served as a good way to move and release some of the tension we were feeling. Two years later, as the COVID 19 pandemic arose, we returned to the spaces we created and made adjustments for our needs to shelter-in-place as safely as possible from both physical and mental perspectives. Changing our living environment to be conducive to our work and health needs as individuals and as a couple helped us stay present during the rapidly unfolding coronavirus situation while also helping us feel safe and more prepared for the unknown.
Creating designated spaces in both common areas and for privacy have proven to be extremely helpful as we live through the pandemic. I hope these suggestions are supportive for people sheltering-in-place and for people (and families) facing different health challenges and stages of illness.
Suggestions for Creating Healing Spaces
***Gather Items that You Love and Make You Happy***
Bring together your favorite things or those of a loved one if you are helping them create a space. Pillows, blankets, photos, books, memories, plants, spiritual adornments, crystals, toys/trinkets, essential oils/diffuser, candles, music, etc. I found over the years my favorite items had been dispersed throughout the house. Discovering and surrounding myself with them brought me joy and sweet memories and also helped me let go of some clutter in the process. I used these items to decorate both the common area and private space as well as to create an altar.
***Rearrange the Common Area for Accessibility and Engagement***
Unless a person is contagious, an inclusive space in the heart of the home that can be modified to support mobility and pain challenges with mindfulness to other potential triggers is a thoughtful way to show love. My partner rearranged the living room to accommodate my physical needs following multiple surgeries which helped me to eat, rest, and engage in conversations in the same location. We moved other small items like plants and tables so I could change my position to eat and rest without compromising digestion or mobility issues.
***Make a Private Space***
A private space is necessary for people recovering from contagious illness. For other long term and chronic dis-ease, while being included in the activity of the home is important, it’s also essential for healing to be able to sit with yourself and have space to focus on recovery without the rest of the household present. Separate rooms like a guest room or den can make wonderful healing spaces but may not be feasible for everyone. Adjusting existing spaces like a family room or dining room can also work. Or perhaps part of a bedroom, finished basement, or storage space can be cleared out to become a healing space. Tapestries, blankets, and hanging beads can all make partitions to help with privacy. We transformed the guest room into a healing room and covered a futon mattress with lots of pillows and kept the rest of the space open for yoga and physical therapy. This room has become a very helpful place for processing and retreating during the pandemic as well.
***Prepare for Recovery Time***
Recovery usually takes more time that anticipated and is often thought of as something to “get over.” I found with that mindset, I was less able to find compassion for myself and where I was in the recovery process. I began to think of recovery more as self care and began to enjoy the time I spent in the healing space whether it was meditating with a heat pack, practicing restorative yoga on You Tube, doing my physical therapy exercises, writing in my journal, or engaging in spiritual practice.
Over time, the private healing space became a place where my partner and I could process all we had been through that felt safer than the kitchen, living room, or bedroom. As a caregiver, my partner suffered from his own trauma, and this space became a place of respite for him as well. When he was sick with the flu, it served as a safe space for him to heal and also kept me from getting sick. It is also a place where one of us can spend the night alone because we may just need our own space without the feeling of being banished to the couch. Especially during the coronavirus pandemic, we have come to appreciate alone time more deeply than we did struggling with the isolation of cancer and are very grateful for being able to retreat within our own home.
***Create an Altar***
Regardless of your spiritual practice or religious beliefs, an altar is a powerful way to hold space for yourself and your own healing intentions. Altars are deeply rooted in our ancestry and many of us were guided by this intuition when we were children—organizing our trinkets and toys, keeping items and photos of loved ones near our hearts. Altars can be connected to your faith in God, Spirit, or the Divine or they can be connected to your values, hopes, and dreams—or both. An altar can be located anywhere in the home where it can be clean and undisturbed from other uses. I found creating one in the private healing space was calming and helped me build my spiritual practice. I keep it clean from dust, cleansed with locally made herbal smudge sticks, and change its adornments depending on what I am trying to manifest or call into my life to support my health and vitality. I also leave offerings of gifts from walks in the woods or fresh flowers, depending on the season.
The effects of COVID 19 are going to affect our lives in many ways we cannot foresee right now, including varying levels of trauma, which calls for more individual and collective healing. Long-term illness and dis-ease continue to affect people’s health as does the need for recovery at so many levels of our existence. Compassion for ourselves and our loved ones is one way we can support each other and can be readily addressed by creating the space for healing within the home. A tangible way to acknowledge the nurturing and care we all need is to provide ourselves and our loved ones with the dignity to experience health challenges in a space suited to meet physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. This is a beautiful way to express love.