It's hard to believe that it's been so many months since I posted here on growthhouse's blog. I really love this concept and hope that more people in end of life care use it as a resource. It's a wellspring of information and knowledge as well as access to some really important people in the whole field of thanatology.
For those of you who are new to this blog, I welcome you. For those who have read it from time to time, I welcome us both back. It's good to be here and be able to come back with more morsels that I have learned from my experiences with loss and those experiences that clients share with me.
The importance of just being.... I have a few clients that I have been working pretty intensely with and I have to say that we can never underestimate how just being there really can be enough. How being engaged and present to what they share with us, what they don't share with us, the stories they tell, the memories they offer, and the triumphs that they gleam from when they have been down for so long.
I have a certain person I have been working with who has a lot of abuse history and the person called me today just to let me know that after a pretty upsetting situation, which would normally bring back trauma and set this person over the edge, she was able to stay calm, use some of the things we talked about ... simple things... breathing, meditating, looking beyond the moment to see how our actions in the present could effect the future, not taking things personally, and knowing that a lot of what we see in our world is illusory. This was the first time in well over a year that we have known one another that she was proud of herself, that she didn't go back to the trauma of her son's death, that she took care of herself and her daughter, and that she realized she had choices.
Isn't that something that we can forget to remind clients.... that they have choices! That how they think, the stories that run through their mind, the history that they let replay makes a difference in how they experience the world. Sometime so simple as a reminder that we have choice, that we have options and just because we have done something 100 times before does not mean that we have to instinctually do the same thing for that 101 time. How great it is for this client to know that her choices were to self medicate (like she's done in the past and has suffered consequences), that she could totally lose control (like she has done and not been able to take care of herself), that she could be in the moment and take a situation as it came, not adding anything more to the narrative and not hiding from the parts that are too painful (something that she is working on doing more and more).
How wonderful it is to see that someone who has been in system after system, has taken medication after medication is making choices because someone reminded her that she had choices to make and provided a safe environment where she could try out some of those new choices. A person who the "system" had given up on, especially after the traumatic and sudden loss of her son, called me today and was giddy that she had made it through a situation unscathed, one, by the way, that I am not sure I would not have been able to cope with as calmly.
Will there be bumps in the road? Brown-outs when she forgets that she has choices, options, tools, new ways of looking and thinking about things, or that she has people who support her and don't think of her as "ONLY" a grieving mom, a psychiatric patient, a person who has no hope left to hold on to? Yes, that could happen, and she was able to live in the moment and appreciate that in this one situation, she was able to break patterns that have been instilled in her since her own childhood and reinforced with the trauma of her son's death.
To all the clients out there who have those magic moments of ah-ha and to the people who sit with them week after week in, being compassionate with each other... change can happen, transformation can occur despite what everyone else says, and you can find yourself again when everyone else has told you that you have no self to find. I honor each individual that sets out on the journey of finding her self or him self despite all the odds. And I honor those who support you in remembering or learning that nothing is impossible!!!!
Along with this, I would suggest to clients and to caregivers, go beyond just what the books on grief talk about. Use bibliotherapy with folks. Help them with ideas on what to write, how to create ritual, and when to know when it's their voice they hear and can be true to or if it's voices from the past that we keep playing in our minds again and again. I'm not afraid to use non-grief books with clients. With this client, using Don Miguel Ruiz' book The Four Agreements taught her a new way of looking at the world. With others, I have brought them my Ipod to listen to podcasts of conversations from great thinkers and healers... It's time to move beyond the paradigms that we think are the only things that work... Reach out to anything that will awaken the spirit and help move the energy that is stagnant in someone you are working with. Whatever it takes to help them see that they can make a difference. Don't be afraid to talk about walking, eating healthy, drinking water... it's all about healing and balance and in the end, it's those things that are just as important on our grief journey than support groups and memorial services.
Dare to explore, to try, and to be present with the needs of the person before you. You might just get a giddy phone call from someone who though there was no reason to live and that life couldn't ever be different!!!
Until the next blog post, be well and spread your therapeutic wings!