During Holy Week, someone very close to me had 2 massive strokes, three days apart. It was a pretty awful week for my whole extended family, with lots of uncertainty and fear. Amazingly, doctors were able to remove the huge blood clot from their brain both times, so the impact physically is fairly minimal. They are still quite weak, and things like working on a computer become overstimulating very quickly, but we all know we’re lucky. This beloved person is not only still alive, but doctors are optimistic about a full or almost full recovery.
One of the most challenging parts of the last month has been my awareness of the mental health impact on this family member. They had experienced very little anxiety or depression before these strokes, but now both are very much present in their daily life. They’re afraid of being alone, of going to sleep, of so many more things that I can’t even fathom. They talk about waking up, realizing their “condition”, and despairing.
I’m glad that this family member was very open to starting an anti-depressant when suggested by a doctor in the ICU. And, these new experiences with their mental health are unsurprising after the trauma they’ve been through. Still, as one who loves them, it is challenging and heart-wrenching to watch.
One of the more beautiful parts of the last month has been the experience of watching this person receive emails and texts and cards and calls about how loved they are, and that people are praying for them. I doubt they’ve ever in their life asked for anyone to pray for them, and they even found the idea uncomfortable before now. But I’ve been amazed to see how buoyed they’ve been by reading or hearing that an individual or a community are praying for them. It has shown me the power of prayer in a way that is very meaningful for my whole family.
I had hoped that by writing this, I’d have a neat way to wrap things up at the end. Sometimes life isn’t that way. This beloved’s healing is ongoing. My whole family is going through healing after the trauma of these 2 strokes, in fact. And I’ve been reminded yet again of the fragility of our mental health, and the power of the love and prayers of a community. For all of this, I am grateful.He
Hannah Campbell Gustafson
Hannah Campbell Gustafson and her family recently made a leap of faith and moved to Minneapolis, MN from rural Wisconsin. She is the outreach coordinator at Plymouth Congregational Church. Hannah is treasurer for the Mental Health Network, is trained as a social worker, has an MDiv, and is a Member in Discernment with the Southwest Association of the Wisconsin Conference of the UCC. She and her partner (an ELCA Lutheran pastor) share their lives with their young child Leona and their standard poodle puppy Óscar.