I was called to go to a patient's bedside...
Sometimes it happens - less than you might imagine for hospice. We pretend we are in control, and we are, of some things, but life happens.
It's like my Grandmother Annie said: "Everyone takes their time to be born and to die..."
She had no idea I would be a hospice chaplain...and be quoting her wisdom to you decades later.
Ah, life happens.
But each death take a toll on caregivers...
These little deaths can add up and my body keeps score. Even if my brain feels honored to do this work and the rest of me is also so very grateful, it can tally in my body as textbook trauma.
I have found in the last six years that my body holds these little griefs and deaths.
Peppermint takes you up, but lavender takes me down...
In other words, caregiving and its incremental life and death dramas and losses will creep up on you and PRESTO I/you have accumulated enough embodied stress to get us sick. The issue for me, is that it is an equally slow release process.
I would like to 'let it go' but physically, alas, I have not found that button. It is a slow drip, drip, drip of releasing. If I ignore it, stress can get deep pretty quickly.
Naming the feeling and feeling it works too.
Actually the quickest route is feeling the loss, and naming it as soon as it possible for a caregiver. Having a meltdown in front of the patient, is not useful. They are most likely unable to respond and you just feel foolish. But simply sitting with it is the most efficient way I have found to AVOID storing it for processing–later.
I have recently tried something new into my daily process - see if it helps you:
I have now made a daily habit of using essential oils to train my body/mind/spirit...I am employing the wisdom of Pavlov's dog...to wake up or chill out. Aromatherapy is effective for getting under my skin and softening the accumulated stressors of caregiving.
Try a bottle of Dr. Bonner's Peppermint Soap. This refreshing secret weapon has been around since hippie days and is no mainstream in many supermarkets. (Try it with a super exfoliating mit for extra 'letting go' superpowers.)
No matter how stressed out you are as a caregiver, hey, we need to shower.
To relax, I use lavender in various forms
to trigger and align all my senses to the task that I do not need to hold on to another's story. To take them on, to embody to these stories and their associated sadnesses will not help me help them. It will not help me–in fact it gets in the way of being a good caregiver. When I leave a patient - during the day or at the end of my day, I use lavender anti-bacterial hand sanitizer to mentally relax...(I imagine it as allowing their story to pass out of my body and into the good Earth which knows what to do with it.) ( I use the anti-bacterial one which is simply alcohol and does not teach the germs to be super germs.)
EO has a wonderful line of lavender which uses essential oils not some artificial, chemical clone of the scent...and it says its organic (which is bound to be better, right?)
If it has been ...one of those days... where you never seem to catch up to the goodness. I take a lavender bubble bath or shower. Kiehl's has one a lavender series of liquid soaps, and lotions. Dr. Bonner's has one too...
Try it...and let me know how it works for you. And Share yours.
Please share your best 'how to get under the skin of stress' practices. It will make the world a more peaceful (an sane) place.
At last night's Wednesday meditation,
I focused us with these thoughts.
There is a give and take to gratitude. We are stronger when we remember we are CONNECTED BY OUR HEART…AND OUR ROOTS.
Like the Redwoods…OUR TRUTHS are dirtier & deeper.
Those trees, since the Jurassic era, have gotten so strong and sure - seeming to go it alone.
But they are connected to their others by the roots. They share resources, silently and secretly - all the time- even
If they seem to be alone in that valley.
THEY are not alone but connected in MYSTERY and MIRACLE.
I also spoke about the DYNAMIC BALANCE of nature... and us.....(Click the Read more below)
I felt like a superhero last week - (chaplain with cape...)
As a hospice chaplain for the last 6 years, I have never performed a wedding for a patient. But last week the stars aligned and TWO sets of patients wanted a ceremony –both after forty years of being together.
As a clinical chaplain, I have strict guidelines. I didn't want to do harm. It can be complicated at the end of life... Alot of things can be going on below the surface.
So I started researching logistics, the local law, and my company's policy and procedures. I got the green light from my Administrator and Director of Nursing. I found a way to support these patients as fit their situation and spiritual traditions: one couple was Baptist the story is below ( the other is Catholic and another future story TBD).
The stuff of forty years of loving
Last Sunday, I performed a traditional Baptist Wedding ceremony in front of 15 people, in a living room already crammed full, with a hospital bed and the stuff of forty years of living and loving.
There was alot of love in that room; it was glorious.
It got me thinking about love.
The ceremony was the cherry on top of forty years of loving (or maybe the whipped cream...)
I made a ceremony that acknowledged the way love happens...and the way life happens.
(Click the Read more below)...for a bit of the ceremony...
A lovely self-care ritual that made a memorable impact
How many times as a healthcare professionals have we given lip service or shallow attention to the idea that we must take care of ourselves?
A lot...and then there are so many life and death scenarios and issues, it is easy to put any of it off for the needs of others. But this is not sustainable. We need to be evergreen to be useful. (This goes for family members caregiving for sick loved ones too.)
The Ritual of the Chalice and the Saucer
IMAGINE that pottery chalice being filled...
The pitcher starts pouring...into the chalice and...
They are talking about self care ... it must be one of those metaphors where we are are putting a happy face sticker on your dash board to hide an empty gas tank...? But no...they keep pouring....
The chalice is half full...
(we pause to see if the ritual will be one of those half empty or half full metaphors... but no they keep right on pouring....)
The chalice is 3/4 full... and they pause...
(It is probably one of the metaphors about staying full to do what is yours to do... it's a good one. I believe it on most days.)
But no... the pitcher is pouring past full...it's spilling over into the saucer...
( ok... ok...they are talking about ministering from the overflow...we bless from the overflow because ... hey... the Kingdom of God is within... Source is unlimited. The Lord our God is One. God is great.)
Then, surprisingly, they dip their fingers in the saucer ...
( then start throwing this holy water on everyone in attendance)
Got it. We bless from the Overflow. It becomes, we become sustainable. Amen.
Note: this is a creative reuse - with verbal permission from Rev. Dr. Rev. Nancy Wiens in the lecture she did on Contempletive Self-Care in the Chaplaincy Institute's death and dying series this year.
on a Chaplain's life