Author: the Rev. Daniel D. Warriner

Chaplain’s Corner: Grieving for Fallen Heroes

The Rev. Daniel D. Warriner is UConn Health’s chaplain. (Photo by Tina Encarnacion)

I wanted to take a moment to recognize the Bristol Police Department. Two officers, Sgt. Dustin DeMonte and Officer Alex Hamzy, died in the line of duty last week, and Officer Alec Iurato was seriously wounded. Bristol is just the next town over. This happened in our community. So this feels very close to home for me. How about for you?

Large U.S. flag hanging from ladder truck
With the bodies of two slain Bristol police officers at the state medical examiner’s office, members of the law enforcement community arrive on the UConn Health campus as a Farmington Fire Department ladder truck displays the American flag Oct. 14, 2022. (Photo by Suzanne Paranzino)

I have spoken with many people. I have watched news videos together on hospital units. I have heard the pain. I have heard stories of nightmares, fears, and anxiety about safety in the future. As I learn more about their deaths, I’m sickened by this senseless tragedy and the evil in the world.

However the specifics of this tragedy weighs on your heart, I would like to acknowledge the many levels the power of this loss to shake up our hospital community.

Perhaps you were here last Friday when the flag was held high across the main drive and the procession to the medical examiner’s office. Maybe you have patients who live or work in Bristol. Maybe you even come from Bristol. Maybe you know the department directly. Maybe you plan to be at Rentschler Field to pay your respects to the fallen officers.

This is a deep loss and a tragic moment. I see it. I hear it. I feel it. Not just for our staff, but our families and friends. What do you need in this moment of grief? Do you need to vent, cry, share a moment of silence together, or do you need a listening ear while you process? I am here if you want to connect to hold space for the tragedy. Perhaps that’s my way of not letting evil win. I want to intentionally make this a point of connection and support so you know you’re not feeling this alone. I’m here. It’s sad. I’m sad with you. Let’s grieve together.

Should you be so moved to help, please see a list of ways to support the families.

You can reach me at dwarriner@uchc.edu, 860-679-3230, or even through Voalte.

—Rev. Daniel D. Warriner, UConn Health Chaplain

Chaplain’s Corner: 2 Years of COVID

The Rev. Daniel D. Warriner is UConn Health’s chaplain. (Photo by Tina Encarnacion)

Is there any way to recap these past two years? It’s hard to say. Yet, moments like this are necessary because acknowledging this benchmark is important.

Remember when we were just supposed to wait two weeks and everything would be alright? But then two years passed. Many got sick. Some recovered. Some died. Our patient care routines changed. Our lives changed.

COVID has impacted my entire life — all of it — mind, body, and spirit. COVID brought loss. My reaction to the losses from COVID brought grief. So it makes sense that I’m still grieving. I talk about grief a lot because it is all around us. How about you? As we emerge from pandemic life, could I encourage you to spend some time considering how COVID has affected you — mentally, emotionally, socially, physically, spiritually.

Your grief is necessary. However, if I’m honest with myself, tackling grief is often the last thing I want to be doing. It’s hard to make space to really sit with a loss. But even when it doesn’t feel productive and I’d rather not deal with it, going through the grief process is an absolutely necessary experience. Why? Because the reality is that you lost something and it hurts badly, and like any other injury, it needs to be addressed and tended to. If a cut gets infected when left untreated, how much more will our grieving, injured hearts cause us trouble if we don’t take intentional steps to heal after a season of loss?

yellow heartDo you know what happens to grief if you do your best to ignore or hide your pain? It listens to you and goes somewhere into the depths of your heart, where it transforms. It doesn’t go away, but rather gets balled up and tends to “leak” out in the form of anger, depression, or unhealthy habits. This is worse than the grief itself.

So, how do we care for our grieving hearts? Just like any other traumatic injury, we have to acknowledge it, find ways to rest, and patiently work through the steps of healing. Depending on the moment and the stage of grief, this might look like a conversation with a friend, prayer, taking a long run, reading a good book, going on a day trip, or talking with a counselor. These are small steps on the road of healing. They don’t take away what happened but they can help to move us forward in our journey.

Grief and loss have the power to define us, but they also have the power to spark growth in us. What may start off like a small seed in you can blossom, causing you to grow in ways you hadn’t imagined before. My hope is that we can navigate this path of grief with empathy, kindness, patience, and love — both for ourselves and for one another.

—Rev. Daniel D. Warriner, UConn Health Chaplain