Thursday, March 26, 2015
One of the most glaring scars I have is on my arm. Years ago when I was in college, I was working on campus. The stake body truck had a chain on the back that I could hold onto as we moved from place to place to do our landscaping. I remember it as if it were yesterday. We hit a bump, I was thrust forward, my arm hit the splintered edge of the plywood which made up the walls of the body of the truck, and I was in instant pain. We stopped. My co-workers gathered around me. I told them I thought my arm was broken. I went to the hospital and the ER folks got me x-rayed and the doctor came in and told me I had a splinter about 3 inches long in my arm. He performed surgery right there in the ER room (after giving me several Novocain shots in my arm). It took weeks to heal and when it did, a scar is left there. Whenever I look at my arm, I can recall that day on campus when it happened. Spiritual scars are much the same. As you discussed the spiritual history of your patient, they may have referenced with ease the horrible, blood bath of a church business meeting that so shocked and disappointed them that they decided they would never come back to church. There so many causes of spiritual scars that you can name your own from your experiences as a hospice Chaplain. The sad thing is patients can recall these instantly as if they happened just yesterday. The deep, deep scars some of our patients recall have to do with the violation of their personhood when they were children. The effects of abuse of any form do not get better with time. Time does NOT heal all wounds. Some of your patients have deep wounds like that. How do you get them to talk about their wounds and their past? Simply put, you don’t. Your patients and mine have to trust us implicitly. The pastoral care relationship has to be on solid footing. You must win their trust and prove yourself trustworthy for this to happen. What saddens me is that the length of stay of our hospice patients has decreased over the years to the point that relationship development just cannot happen as it used to. Dame Cicely Saunders, the founder of the modern hospice movement, coined the term “total pain.” Her definition of total pain included: physical pain, social pain, psychological pain, and spiritual pain. It might be that your conversation with a patient would move toward the topic of suffering. You might consider Saunders’ definition and then ask, “Where does it hurt?” And, then, be silent and let the patient either take the invitation to self-reveal or not. In our next post, we will look at the topic of how hope can spring from suffering. Chaplain Colleagues, yours is a sacred profession. Blessings of wisdom I pray for you.