COVID and ‘Getting Bigger’

By Elizabeth Geiling, MSED, LMHC, LCC Counselor

 As I think back on this past year, the word that keeps coming to my mind is unsettled. We don’t know what the future holds for our nation, our health, our career and our family.  To date, I have never experienced anything like this where all parts of my life are uncertain. We are in a pattern of waiting. We are in the psychological space of limbo, which is one of the most demanding states, requiring a lot of emotional energy, before we even get to the required work of the day. We are unsettled, uncertain and often afraid of what is coming next.

My son is a hardcore climber. He has climbed all over the world, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and he summited Mt. Rainer. Recently, he had an accident; not at all related to his dangerous journeys. He was moving a stove and it slipped down the stairs, with him staying almost ahead of it. We received the phone call (in November) that could be any parent’s call, but, indeed every parent’s worst nightmare.

“Your son has been hurt…” As I listen and try to take the details in, the irony does not escape me.  An oven, a random accident has almost taken this kid out of the game permanently. It seems a bit unfair to the worrier and the mom in me, because I had preemptively imagined many horrific types of accidents and none of them included a major appliance

10 days in the hospital and 3 surgeries to wait through gave me a lot of time to ponder life! 

I would like to share an experience that happened in the hospital, or as my mother-in law would call it, a “God Wink”:

I am sitting by the hospital bed of my 23 year old son, who has been seriously injured. Bones broken, limbs crushed and he is scared and confused. I search every part of his face and I can see the baby, the child, the teen. He is bigger now, a grown man, but, I have loved this face and body from before our eyes met. 

Time has passed so quickly, but these hours at the bedside feel endless. I feel my body breaking, as I take in the scope of his injuries. My mind moves through the memories of the care I have provided. He is hurt and no amount of ‘mommy’ can fix this now. Soon, the hospital waiting game begins, as the surgeries are performed and we will the hours to pass. 

Directly in front of us in the family waiting area is the hospital gift shop and while we wait, we memorize the contents in the window. Off to the left, there is a circular rack that contains all types of stuffed bears. Laying across the top, staring right at us is a stuffed bear that is almost an exact copy of the one we bought him on the day he was born. It is a little bigger than the original.

As it often happens in tense situations, our family erupts with laughter when the realization hits. Because along the way, Luke lost baby bear and it was a memorable heartbreak. As a child he would wonder where he might be, search the campus we lived on absolutely sure he left it here or there.  At night, he would keep his brother awake suggesting other possible locations. We never found baby bear. 

Finally, we are called on the phone. He is through the surgery and we are able to see him.  He is in that post surgical sleep, between consciousness and unconsciousness and I sit by his bed.  He wakes a little and I hand him the newly purchased baby bear, he cuddles up to it and says, “I have been looking for you for a long time. You are a little bigger now.” His recollection, a simple, pure memory of something he loved deeply and never stopped looking for is a profound spiritual message to me (My “God Wink”). 

I am overwhelmed by presence of the Holy, reminding me that amidst all this brokenness and uncertainty, I am being held in love and God is always looking for me. I am calm for the first time since this ordeal began. I feel we are at another beginning, baby bear in tow and that our family will emerge from this ‘bigger’.  We will know more, we will understand more, we will have more empathy and we will know God is here holding us in the journey. 

I am aware that many of you are experiencing difficult times and the waiting and uncertainty is draining. I am inviting you in these scary, uncertain, sacred moments of your lives to keep your heart open to the “God-Wink” that says – “I am the God of ages past, present and future. I’ve got you. I am always looking for you” 

When we cannot predict an outcome, when we are in limbo, while we are waiting, know that God is there too.  We pray that we will emerge bigger with a greater capacity for love and service. 





Betty Geiling, MSED, LMHC, is Associate Professor and Chair of the Psychology Dept. at Concordia College, Bronxville. She is currently a PhD candidate in Mental Health Counseling at Pace University. Her work experience includes counseling children of all ages, teens, adults, couples and families (normally at LCC’s Bronxville and Manhattan sites, but currently virtually through a HIPAA compliant platform).