Thursday, March 26, 2015
Scars, Part 2
As I mentioned in the previous post, some of your patients have been carrying deep wounds with painful scars. I recall a patient I served who would engage in very deep conversation about God and her spiritual life. She would begin to talk about how God has helped her throughout her life and then for no reason I could discern she would change the subject. She did this for several visits. I began to wonder if there was a problem in her life that God didn’t help her with and would gently ask her in my next visit. The conversation was just as before, deep and filled with her appreciation for God helping her. She began to change the subject when I gently interrupted and made the observation that our conversations were very deep and inspirational and that we both felt good after talking, but it seemed that the conversation took a different direction each time. I assured her I would not pry and that if she chose to keep our conversations on this level that would be fine. But, if she would like to discuss something that perhaps God didn’t handle for her that I would listen and not judge or condemn. She paused, began to tremble and her eyes began to tear up. After that, she opened the dark secret of her life that she said she could not and did not share with anyone else in her life. Further, she said that at this stage of her life she needed to get it out in the open. She then shared that for 4 years was abused by several men in her community. The family dynamics did not allow her to share what happened. For 64 years she kept that secret. During those 64 years, that secret prevented her from developing romantic relationships. After she emptied her soul of the pain, with her permission I was able to connect our counselors with her. She died at peace. Supporting patients and giving them hope is a wonderful privilege for the hospice Chaplain. Here is a strategy to follow with your patients: 1. Develop a trusting relationship. This is something that is earned not given. It takes time. Never assume trust. 2. Use productive interventions such as a life review, journaling, pastoral counsel, sacred texts dealing with God as the source of hope for inner healing. 3. Should the patient reveal anything like my patient did, seek approval to bring in the counseling professionals on your Team. Unless you are a licensed mental health counselor, it is best to refer this patient to one on your Team and continue your spiritual care work with this patient. Bless you Chaplain Colleagues. Yours is a challenging and sacred work.