I was chatting with a student of mine today and listening to her sharing. I understood on a deeper level how spiritually and emotionally impactful giving care can be, especially within a care system.
Here are two things she shared that reminded me how important it is to take care of our care providers:
1) A client/patient/resident of hers died several days ago and she was in the midst of grieving her loss. Yes, it was a professional relationship AND a personal one too – after all how can you give care and not be personal? She was surprised at the odd times her grief popped up.
2) As she was walking along the hall in a care facility she heard from behind a closed door a woman crying for her Daddy. The women struggling with dementia was lying on the floor of her room naked and help-less and had been calling out for quite some time.
Grief is a trickster! It shows up when it is good and ready and not necessarily when we expect it to. Our grief may not show up just because we are at a grief support group. It may not show up at the time of our grief counseling session or when we are attending a Death Café. It may show up when we hear a particular song, when we smell a familiar fragrance, or at a special time of day, day of the week or month of the year. We have no control over its arrival.
We do, however, have control over what we do with the grief energy when it arises. We can choose to find some one we can express our grief to; a person who will listen to understand us and provide a non-judgmental ear and a compassionate heart. We can take a moment of silence to breathe, to cleanse our heart with an emotional exhale or three. We can wash our hands and while doing so imagine we are letting go of the grief we are experiencing. We can create healthy letting go rituals we can practice at the end of each day or week.
Our systems of care are overwhelmed. Whether it be a care home, hospital, or hospice, they are all swamped as are the staff working in these environments. There is a tendency for us to become overwhelmed and demoralized by all the care that is needed and that the system is just not able to provide. There is a thought that can arise that goes something like this; “Well there is just too much to do and the little I can do doesn’t really matter.” Or something such as this, “My little contribution won’t change anything.” Or “What difference can I make?”
Well the truth is that our ‘little’ contributions ARE enough. Our contributions will make a difference and all we each can do is simply what we each can. A smile to a resident as you pass them in the hallway IS a big deal. A hug or gentle loving touch on the shoulder DOES make a difference to the one we hug or touch. A kind word on the way to the next room IS making a difference. Each act of kindness DOES make a difference no matter how small we may judge it to be. Kindness IS kindness no matter the size of the act.
Be willing to offer random acts of kindness even though your mind may want to override your choice, even though your thoughts may want to minimize your contribution. Facedown your thoughts and offer gestures of kindness to those your heart knows could use it.