A Deeper Dive Into the Interventions, Part 3
“Listen to patient’s story/life review” is an intervention that requires the Chaplain to be in the moment and all there. It seems to me that when a patient is trusting enough to open their innermost beings to the Chaplain, this servant of God is most anxious and receptive to hear. Consider personalizing this scenario for a moment: What happens when you get a prognosis that you are dying? In my case, if I were told today that I have three months to live, it means that because this is end of April 2016, I would die in the in August 2016. It means, Christmas 2015 was my last Christmas and Thanksgiving was my last Thanksgiving, although I didn’t know it at the time. I won’t see another summer again. It means what I planned to do and the places I was going to go next fall will all be canceled. The vacation I had planned going to Georgia to see the changing of the leaves? Gone! Everything I had planned, gone! It means I have three months left to live! Me. I am going to die at 62!
This is what flashes through a person’s mind when they get the news. They hear, see, envision, twelve weeks left. Twelve more Mondays, Tuesdays, etc. Right in the middle of living my life, this brick wall stands right in front like an insurmountable obstacle. Non-negotiable! The End! You can’t go over it. You can’t go under it. You can’t knock it down. You won’t wake up from this bad dream. Finished! And, they need to talk about it.
On one occasion I was invited to visit with a patient who said she was Wiccan. She was extremely hesitant to allow me to visit, but chanced it anyway. After the ice was broken and conversation seemed to open up, I asked her to share her story with me if she felt at ease to do so. And, so she began to share why she became a Wiccan. It seemed that when she was a little girl her mother took her and her siblings to church on a regular basis. Her father did not attend as he had no use for the church. The time came when he got sick and died. After the funeral, church people came to her, hugged her, and told her they were so sorry her father…went to hell. I about fell out of my chair. How cruel of them to crush the heart of a child who was grieving the loss of her father! She stated she went on a spiritual quest to find a religious system that did not have hell as a doctrine. She found it in Wicca. I must say that because I gave her my full attention a relationship of trust developed. It was on the basis of that trust that healing pastoral care took place. People need to be heard. Listening is our strongest characteristic. It shows we care, that the patient (or whoever we are with) matters, that we are truly concerned about the patient and not about ourselves and what visit we have to make next. Much is revealed about the patient’s life in a life review. It can form the foundation of great pastoral conversations. Fear, anxiety, despair, and even physical pain frequently diminish when the person feels heard, understood, and accepted. Personhood, self-worth, and dignity are affirmed. Feelings of isolation decrease. Persons find their own answers in the new milieu of affirmation.