Pop the Question!

Losing someone you love brings with it a kind of wistful mystery: who was my loved one … really? What do I wish I knew about them that I didn’t even think to ask them while I could? What would I give up chocolate for the rest of my life to know? (Granted, that would have to be a really, really important question.)

I now know things about people who have been important to me that I didn’t know while they were alive — about a mental illness, for example, or a key relationship they had had. Had I sat with them and asked meaningful questions, I would have opened up a really important part of their lives and we would have had that intimacy between us.

Your knowing the pang of that eternal wondering can be a spur to your thinking ahead about the mystery inhabiting the people you love who are still here. It’s probably a good thing that that mystery is never going to be entirely penetrable — would you really want it to be? — but there are things you know you wonder now, and now is the time for you to find your moment, and the right way, to pop your question. 

 

What keeps us from asking real questions of those we love?

If you haven’t already popped your question, you may have a “good” reason.

Maybe …

You’re afraid of the answer you might get. (It can’t be worse than the answer that’s lurking around in your head.) 

You feel as though you don’t know how or when, or whether it’s even okay, to pose the question. (You can warm up to it; you don’t have to ask in one perfectly worded way.) 

You’re afraid of saying the wrong thing as you ask. (If it’s that awkward to ask, your family member will see you floundering and will become unusually patient. 😉 )

The intimacy of the question feels a bit much. (So take it in stages.)

You feel as though you’re in too much pain yourself. (Focusing outside yourself is actually going to help.) 

 

The question is a gift to the person you love.

Your mother-in-law longs to be known. Your irascible cousin is actually just as tender inside as you are. Your buddy has no one else to tell. 

The question you form in your heart, the one that will help you understand how they experience or have experienced the world, is the one they long to hear. And it’s the one you’ll be glad you asked while you’re both still around.

Truly, just about everyone loves to talk about themselves. And once you let them know it’s okay for them to take up space, you’ll learn a lot more than you thought you would. 

I’ll tell you a story.

When my mother’s breast cancer returned, already advanced by the time it was detected, she, my father, and I went shoe-shopping (yes, that’s what we did — let me tell you about a good pair of shoes). At one moment, my father strayed up ahead, perhaps seeing something in another shop window. 

As my mother and I walked more slowly behind, I thought of something I knew I’d wonder about her, a woman about whom people first would remember how well she was always “put together.”

Early in feminism’s second wave, my mother invented a job for herself, one that had started on a volunteer basis but eventually led her to earn more than my father did as a faculty member. She wore snazzy tailored outfits to work. 

I wanted to know how she related to her own appearance – not from a position of vanity, but for the advantages it may have given her in life or how it had shaped her worldview. She had banked so much on that. 

So I popped the question, “Mom, how do you think your life might have been different if you hadn’t been born pretty?”

She stopped in her tracks, turned her gaze on me, and spoke uncharacteristically sharply. “Who says I’m pretty?” We had never discussed this directly before, I’d just assumed it. 

After she died a few months later, thinking of her as having overcome a sense of not being pretty, rather than simply banking directly on her confidence in it, has given me an entirely different way of understanding my mother’s drive.

I’m so glad I asked. 

 

A good question can make a complex answer easy. 

It can be asked at such a time, and in such a way, that there’s room for the person to think through their answer. (You’re leaving about 10 times more space for them to answer than you’re ordinarily comfortable with.)

The answer is something that, with just a little bit of stretch, they would want to tell you.

You’re framing the question that you’ve already done some a bit of the thinking for them but are leaving room for their own self-definition and self-discovery. 

It all comes, I believe, down to a single über-question

 

What is it like to be you? 

Make your question about their experience

About how they have perceived a hard decision or moment in their lives —not just what happened, but how and why it happened. 

And remember, above all, to ask your question in such a way that “yes” or “no” cannot be the answer to it. 

 

What does it take to be a good popper of questions? 

Imagination, Empathy, and Humility — not necessarily in that order. 

The best journalists and interviewers know how to pose questions that reveal the soul, the story underneath the story that is first told. 

They start with imagination. They believe there’s something there to be discovered and they believe that because they’ve imagined the possibilities. 

Interviewers on long-form programs or for feature stories in print pose their questions in a fundamental spirit of appreciating the other’s humanness. They ask their questions in such a way that, whatever the answer might be, it will be understood. They ask questions in ways that avoid objectifying. Rather than “How could you have made such a decision?” they ask, “What was going on inside you as you made your decision to …?” That’s empathy

And they appreciate that they do not know the answer, that that answer is the other person’s own to share (or not to), and that, indeed, if they can only pay quiet attention, the other person may teach them the very question they should have asked. That’s humility.

 

The most important part of daring to pop: your self-preparation

Formulating your question.

Trying to see and hear your question from the other person’s perspective.

And, above all, quieting yourself. Emptying yourself of your preference for one answer or another, or for putting too quickly their answer into a box of your own crafting. 

And then seizing the moment. 

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The Paradox of Anticipatory Grief

How do you both love someone and grieve them while they’re still here, either physically or mentally (or both)?

This is the paradox of anticipatory grief, what you feel when:

  • You know your child is going to die at some point of the illness with which she was born, but somehow she manages to hang on. You don’t know why you can’t protect her from what the treatments, as well as the disease, are doing to her or how you’ll manage when she’s gone.
  • Your stepfather who adopted and loved you is losing the mental sharpness he always drew on to put you in the wrong during arguments. You’d rather have the him you remember than the softened personality that early dementia has given him.
  • You miss your career in financial services but you couldn’t hand the woman who raised you to a stranger’s care, especially when the cancer has advanced and weakened her. Yet you can’t help missing the variety and social contact of the life you were living before and wonder if you’ll be able to pick up where you left off. At night sometimes, even though you want your old life back, you know it will be entirely different without your mother to check in with at the end of a long day.
  • You live far away from your best buddy, who now has a life-limiting disease. Though you fly out as often as pandemic conditions make seem reasonable, you recognize, accurately, that every time you fly out again after these meaningful weekends together could be your last opportunity to see him. And that it’s unlikely you’ll make that trip together to Alaska now.

If Anticipatory Grief is Real, Why Haven't I Heard About It Before?

Even most hospices haven’t come to terms with what it means to serve family members experiencing anticipatory grief.

  • For one, this kind of grief is messy! It deals with living relationships (ack!)
  • It’s not a great fit with the way hospice psychosocial staffs are organized in before-death and after-death teams. Dealing with it effectively requires additional staff resources and allocations to an already-stretched budget.
  • And it can take hold in all kinds of situations besides the relatively immediate end of life—from dementia care to cancer treatments to borrowed time with a child who was predicted to die two years ago.

Yet public awareness of anticipatory grief is growing, and it appears to me to be coming from the growing national focus on family caregivers and the need to address the overwhelm they experience.

I predict you’ll only hear more about it, as our population ages, with generations of fewer caregivers adopting a greater share of the burden of care for their elders, and as we live longer with diseases that in the past might have killed us.

The Sweetness of Now

It wasn’t long ago that I was thinking about my own aging and mortality and felt a rush of anxiety.

“Not enough time left! Too much still to get done.”

And then it came to me with the surprising power of one of those realizations that may even have come before: No amount of time you’ve been granted on Earth is enough, if you’re not using each day you have to live. In effect, you will have already lost — now —the life you were so afraid of losing at some point in the future.

It is the same in loving someone you are already losing. (As beings who die, we are always already losing each other and yet are called to love anyway.) Though you are losing them now, you must love them now.

And the best thing to do, perhaps, is to live the relationship, both as it is, and with the sweetness of its long depth, now, as fully as possible.

The Celebration of Relationship: 100 Years with Tata

As a portrayal of a beautiful celebration of love in the midst of grief, I want to recommend to you the film 100 Days with Tata, a beautiful treatment of the relationship between actor-singer Miguel Ángel Muñoz and Luisa Cantero, the 95-year-old great-great-aunt who helped raised him. During the pandemic, Muñoz moves in to take care of her and becomes more aware of her declining mental as well as physical function, as well as of the debilitating effects of caregiving in general, much less during a pandemic in a tiny apartment. It’s in Spanish (with English subtitles) on Netflix.

The film has been called a love letter to the woman he called Tata and to the shared zaniness, expressiveness, and affection of their lifelong relationship. Muñoz celebrates Tata as the most important person in his life, even making a daily Instagram show with her to give encouragement to others during the pandemic while keeping her as mentally bright and playful as possible. Privately for the camera, he shares his grief, restlessness, frustration, and fear that are not in conflict with — but simply beside — everything he has with his Tata.

Where the Conversation is Going

Though it has been used in many other contexts since then, THE HUMAN JOURNEY was developed as a response to families’ needs when they know loss is on its way.
 
It’s not unusual in these situations for each member to dissolve into their own grief and pain, making care, medical decision-making, and mutual support more difficult.
 
Very gently, THJ opens each person to expressing what is important to them, flexibly adopting each other’s perspectives, and finding meaning in their challenging circumstances.

We are changing the conversation around anticipatory grief. Join us for one of our upcoming trainings to do a world of good.

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What’s In Your Death Doula Bag? 3 Tools for End-of-Life Care

Tools of Comfort

An end-of-life doula is more than just a giver of care, but a provider of comfort. A death doula should carry things that help ease the dying person’s transition and keep the dying person and the family grounded.

Tools of comfort such as a candy bar, a portable speaker, or even a favorite movie may provide short-term pleasure or joy. A hair brush or lipstick can offer dignity to the frail. Religious texts or books of poems can provide a sense of purpose. Flowers can provide the elevation of beauty and remind the dying person of the love in which they are held.

Tools of Care

A death doula’s bag should contain practical items. such as first-aid supplies, pillows, lotions and creams, towels, and washcloths, provide supplementary care to the dying. Epsom salts, a footbath, and topical pain relief can ease minor aches and swelling. Tools of care are most critical during the transition phase, especially if the dying person is uncomfortable or in pain. You can’t take on the pain of another person, but you can help them bear it.

Tools of Legacy

One of the most important things you can offer the dying and the bereaved is a sense of closure. Our lives are not just a series of random occurrences without meaning – we develop important relationships that are worth sharing and preserving. Tools of legacy offer touchpoints for both the dying and the bereaved as they process this difficult life transition.

Many death doulas work with their clients to develop legacy items for family members using crafts like quilting, scrapbooking, or painting. Some will even write letters expressing their love and memories to the people they care for. These can provide powerful tethers, particularly when quality of life is at its highest.

THE HUMAN JOURNEY® was designed as a means to spark conversation amidst despair, even among those reluctant to share their feelings. It takes the form of a board game, encouraging play as a means to discuss grief, letting go, and shared decision-making. While it isn’t required to fulfill your duties as a death doula, it offers a structured methodology for providing meaning in a person’s final days.

As an end-of-life doula, you understand how transformational death can be for families, friends, and loved ones. Your death doula bag should contain objects that help you transform mourning into meaning.

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The Embers of Love

Late in her life, my mother suddenly developed an interest in baseball. Yes, she rooted for the San Diego Padres, but what started to emerge was a substantial interest in the baseball players themselves.

“Isn’t he cute?” She gestured toward the TV screen. I hadn’t seen this coming.

“Cute as in you’d like to have him over for dinner, or cute as in you like l0oking at his backside?”

She merely smiled at me enigmatically, then turned her eyes back toward the TV.

When Marjorie died in 2005, I asked the funeral home to bury with her a pair of baseball earrings I had made for her — a baseball on one side, a bat on the other — so my love and hers (whatever her baseball obsession was really about) could travel with her.
 
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about how we hold others’ values, desires, and wishes for them, how they become residues of their life in us and travel with us back into life.
 
On New Year’s Eve, a brilliant U.S. representative lost his son to suicide.
 
At first, there was only the announcement that the 25-year-old had died. Then, a few days later, Tommy Raskin’s parents put out a beautiful tribute, with photos that helped tell the story, to the person who was their son. It is an example of how to hold in gratitude even our most terrible losses. You will find it a meditation on love in action.
 
The Raskins acknowledged their son had suffered from depression but did not make that, nor a sensational mention of suicide, the main thing about him.
 
The tribute to the remarkable soul they clearly felt privileged to parent for 25 years does not attempt to own Tommy, simply to be grateful for him. It sidesteps any dominant cultural taboo and prurient interest in, or shame about, suicide while acknowledging that depression sometimes kills.

Less than a week later, Rep. Raskin was under siege in the U.S. Capitol, trauma upon grief, with his daughter and a son-in-law, who had wanted to hang close with him, separated from him by insurrectionists. He has said in interviews, while placing his hand over his heart, that he felt his son with him the entire time, and it’s easy to see he meant that in a most visceral way. Tommy was in Jamie’s heart.
 
Tommy was his father’s pride and joy, a young man who shared many qualities and interests with his father. For a lesser couple than Tommy’s parents, his values and loves would have been easier to carry forward in their actions had, perhaps, they coincided with their own. From observing, however, the beauty of their actions in the three weeks since Tommy’s death, I have little doubt that this couple would have brought Tommy with them back into life, however much his values might have differed from theirs.
 
For us mortals, it’s harder to hear – and, under duress, to respect — our loved ones’ values when they are opposed to our own.  It is a great act of love to hear and to respect them anyway.
 
One of the outcomes of THE HUMAN JOURNEY® experience Conductors readily observe is how the experience supports family members to hear their loved one’s experience, wishes, and values in their own voice, whether or not they coincide with their own.

In a situation in which what patients want at end of life is different from what family members wished they wanted, THJ® can help them enact their loved ones’ wishes, granting them the great blessing of carrying forward the felt sense of their loved ones with them, into life.

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Your Breath is a Testimony

“Your breath is a testimony,” tweeted Joél Leon, a Brooklyn-based poet a few days ago.
 
It’s one of those lines that hits, and hits deep. Especially when a lot is happening.
 
Just by living, by having a beating heart and a lifting breath, we are sacred witness at the same time to what goes on around us and to what happens within.
 
Our breath calls us to pay attention, to experience our aliveness. To not tune out because it’s too overwhelming or too painful or too confusing.

So what can we do, those of us who want to help others attend to their breath, to attend to the realities of their lives, if we hope to make paying attention more rewarding than tuning out?
 
For one, we can help them drop down and experience, rather than merely parrot, what is so much more than a truism — that what we tell ourselves about what is happening is an entirely different thing from what is actually happening.

  • What our five-year-old says happened between him and the other kids today at school may be the way he sees it, but we know it’s not what took place.
  • The causes of the life-threatening conditions so many have been facing in Texas may not be, right now, what they appear to be or than we can facilely say they are.
  • The automobile accident that takes two lives and causes untold pain to friends and family — likely for generations – feels “tragic.” Yet our calling it so may actually get in the way of our acting to improve the conditions that may have contributed to the accident. The very “story” may get in the way.

As we breathe, we offer witness to our being in time and we acknowledge our footing on a planet that also exists in time. We get clear of obfuscating tales about what is happening and move more directly into what is happening. We make contact with reality as fully as we can.
 
In THE HUMAN JOURNEY® Experience, our trained THJ Conductors help family members move into, and then beyond, their “stories” to hold them just a little more lightly. You can watch their beings lighten as this starts to happen—and you can see them free up to be more present to the others in their families. They move from isolation and private pain to a shared exhale, and the crisis they face becomes something they can handle – together. Join us to learn to conduct THJ®You’ll help families dealing with end of life, addiction, health or care transition, isolation, alienation, or crises of meaning.

Turning Listening on its Ear

With THE HUMAN JOURNEY® Experience, we try to make listening easier.

To things that one family member saw one way, and another … well, another way. To beliefs and values that are different … but worthy of respect. To unspeakables.

Our process teaches that kinda through the back door. And, indeed, we were inspired to work on this as a design problem largely because of having been in “the “good listener” (which can sometimes be code for “frustrated listener”) position … for years.
 
But, short of learning to conduct the THJ® process for others, there’s a lot you can do, one on one, in your own life, especially as you’re listening in challenging circumstances.
 
You know when you’re stuck. They’re telling a story they’ve told before, a thousand times. It’s painful, and they’ve got how they tell it down. Now you’re the one who’s listening to it. It’s like the story got stuck in Times Roman, with an occasional drop shadow.
 
The thing is, they’re stuck, too. Most of us haven’t realized there’s more than one font to set a story in — more than one genre in which that story can fit. We’ve only learned to tell it one way.
 
And then the gifts in that story get clogged up in there, too.
 
You can help them shift the story, bring in Optima or Constantia or Futura. Or at least get them started with Century Schoolbook.

You’d do it gently, with the same simple strategy we share when teaching “story-catching” (a fancy name for interviewing). You ask a question.

One that asks them to re-see the world as it was at that moment, not as they see it now. You find a place to ask to take a pause so you can reflect on what they’ve said, and then you offer a question—something that you sincerely, and out of love, want to know — and you may break them out of crusty narrator mode, and re-settle them in a fresh view.

  • “Can I ask you to give me a second? I want to just sit with what you’ve just shared.” You wait and you genuinely dig down for the question that’s about what it was like for them at the time of the original story. Ideally (but it takes practice), the question will invite not a yes or no answer, but one that evokes the sights, smells, and perceptions of that time.

 

  • “Do you think he was aware that you were in the room, singing to him?” (Not bad — it’s yes/no, and it asks about someone else, not the storyteller, but it’s going to lead to a descriptive answer anyway about what his face looked like, what the signs were, how they were positioned in the room, and other things you can follow up on.)
  • “What do you think you were successful in communicating to her?” (Depending on the context, could be good — it asks for a descriptive answer, and also draws the person toward an owning of their inner life at the key moment.)
  • “For you, what’s the most memorable word or sound or thing you saw that seems to encapsulate the whole thing, or that’s strongest for you?” (Again, depending on the context, could be good: it drops the person down into the world of the original story and moves a bit beyond extraneous language to the power of the moment.)

The sincere desire to make listening an act of gently offering a re-formatting of a story — as long as it is presented as a desire to understand, not to judge, control, or change — can unlock what’s in there, once it’s freed from genre. Or font.

That’s one way to make of listening a gift.

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Beyond “In Through the Nose, Out Through the Mouth”

You’ve seen it a thousand times on television. Just a bit of momentary drama to set the stage. It’s a medical show. Someone is having an anxiety attack. Maybe he’s hyperventilating. The medical professional or first responder fixes her eyes on this (typically) mouth breather

Read More »
Grief & Loss
Sara K Schneider

Marmalade Sandwiches

The marmalade sandwiches started piling up at Buckingham Palace, and at neighboring Green Park, during the first few days after Queen Elizabeth II died. Likely, they were a reference to the Queen’s charming comedy sketch with beloved British storybook character Paddington Bear, a surprise (even for her

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How THE HUMAN JOURNEY® works
Sara K Schneider

Neither Good Nor Bad

It’s super fun to watch someone’s thinking shift right in front of you. They might jerk still suddenly, their eyes wide and long, like old cartoon figures in a haunted house or a dark cave, when all you could see was the eyes. That’s part of the joy

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Healing
Sara K Schneider

Becoming the Witness

  I’m an avid reader of Twitter for its political and epidemiological news, which often appear prior to (and prove more informative than) what can be made available under the rubric of conventional media. I continue to be struck by a story that Pulitzer Prize-winning

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Culture
Sara K Schneider

Your Relationships (By the Numbers)

Even though our relationships might seem like the least quantifiable things we have in our lives, that doesn’t seem to stop people from thinking of them as sums. I’ve seen that play out a few ways.  I’ve met people who talked about their “A” list and

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Activities & Tools
Sara K Schneider

Pop the Question!

Losing someone you love brings with it a kind of wistful mystery: who was my loved one … really? What do I wish I knew about them that I didn’t even think to ask them while I could? What would I give up chocolate for the rest of my

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You got this.

After my dear schoolfriend Shellie’s father, my “Uncle Stan,” died, my gentle and deeply empathetic father — both men engineers — hesitated to go over to their house. “What will I say?” he stammered. He believed he would have to furnish to the family all of us loved the wisdom that would make it all disappear. I know his capacity for feeling the pain of others, and I suspect he likely also feared that he would have trouble containing their grief without breaking under its weight.

We perdure as at least 150,000 of our countrywomen and men have been lost to COVID-19, leaving behind perhaps 1.5 million Americans in profound grief, a rending of the soul made more violent by the public health limitations that make ordinary human comfort — gathering, hugging, weeping in each other’s arms — impossible. The fabric is not only torn, but gaping pieces that would take a master weaver to bring together have been wholly nipped out.

The healing we bring is so much simpler than my father saw as a looming apparition that kept his wrist taut as he gripped the doorknob. All it is, is the being with — not as the man or woman with answers, not even as the person who has anything at all to say, but as the person who can witness, hear, contain another’s suffering, and abide with it.

It looks like doing nothing. It’s anything but nothing. It’s the something of silently unfolding the landscape of our humanness as we are present with those who are suffering, especially in isolation right now, by stopping resisting that it’s awful, by managing our own presence so that those we care for can hear themselves, can not only get their story out, but, in a sense, tell themselves who they are and what is calling to them in this moment. Our ability to steady ourselves in quiet allows them to pick up that sound.

You are the presence within which they can know who they are right now. Yours is a vital role to play. You may not do it “right.” That’s because there are a thousand “rights.” (Sorry, Dad.) But by paying attention you will be refining your humanness as you, possibly silently, allow them to have profound contact with their own. You can close the door, get in the car, and be there quietly, socially distanced. You can phone and be there with disciplined attention, even if you can’t quite make out what they’re saying through their tears. Just be, and do that being, there. The deepest part of you, too, is the part beyond words. It really is going to take all of you — and all of us.

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Distressed young woman in bed, with her eyes closed, her hand high on her chest, near her throat, and a pillow on her lap.
Activities & Tools
Sara K Schneider

Beyond “In Through the Nose, Out Through the Mouth”

You’ve seen it a thousand times on television. Just a bit of momentary drama to set the stage. It’s a medical show. Someone is having an anxiety attack. Maybe he’s hyperventilating. The medical professional or first responder fixes her eyes on this (typically) mouth breather

Read More »
Grief & Loss
Sara K Schneider

Marmalade Sandwiches

The marmalade sandwiches started piling up at Buckingham Palace, and at neighboring Green Park, during the first few days after Queen Elizabeth II died. Likely, they were a reference to the Queen’s charming comedy sketch with beloved British storybook character Paddington Bear, a surprise (even for her

Read More »
How THE HUMAN JOURNEY® works
Sara K Schneider

Neither Good Nor Bad

It’s super fun to watch someone’s thinking shift right in front of you. They might jerk still suddenly, their eyes wide and long, like old cartoon figures in a haunted house or a dark cave, when all you could see was the eyes. That’s part of the joy

Read More »
Healing
Sara K Schneider

Becoming the Witness

  I’m an avid reader of Twitter for its political and epidemiological news, which often appear prior to (and prove more informative than) what can be made available under the rubric of conventional media. I continue to be struck by a story that Pulitzer Prize-winning

Read More »
Culture
Sara K Schneider

Your Relationships (By the Numbers)

Even though our relationships might seem like the least quantifiable things we have in our lives, that doesn’t seem to stop people from thinking of them as sums. I’ve seen that play out a few ways.  I’ve met people who talked about their “A” list and

Read More »
Activities & Tools
Sara K Schneider

Pop the Question!

Losing someone you love brings with it a kind of wistful mystery: who was my loved one … really? What do I wish I knew about them that I didn’t even think to ask them while I could? What would I give up chocolate for the rest of my

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Learning From Families — In Cases in Which It’s “Too Late”

One spring, we met in person with the head of a hospice organization, anticipating we would be talking about instituting THE HUMAN JOURNEY® as a thorough-going program of her hospice.

Our conversation, based on a rich rapport, took us someplace else.

We were impressed with Candida’s (a pseudonym) conscientiousness. She had been haunted by the searing experience of a family member whose mother had died in her hospice under much-less-than-ideal circumstances, particularly from a psychosocial perspective.

To Candida’s great credit, she wanted to know the truth: Where had the hospice fallen short? What could they have done, and what might they do in future, to alleviate the suffering of families during this hardest of all possible times?

To improve hospice service, we proposed interviewing the small percentage of family members whom the hospice may not have served as well as it would have wished. The hospice knew who these families were. They had heard from them. Some of them loudly.

Those conversations were profound. And they were long. Families need to tell the detailed story of how their loved one’s condition had worsened.

Family members remember the dates and the days of the week. They often remember what staff members told them at the time and when, and how they felt about it then. Sometimes, in the telling, they think differently about what they heard.

In the strongest situations, when family members weren’t sure what to do, hospice staff told them, “There are two choices: you can’t make a wrong one.” They would use their experience to guide families along, holding the family’s point of view. As one family member phrased it, “They were ahead of my curve.”

Yet still, a few situations were revealing. From the interviews, now with staff as well as family members, where staff had fallen short seemed to me to have two causes, one an occupational hazard of caregiving work and the other something they could hardly have been expected to provide, given they were never trained to do it.

First, the natural accretion of years in a hospice job may have made the emotional labor required for staff to do the job well seemingly impossible. And, without the institutional and personal supports to be able to access self-care, staff members would be almost certain to armor increasingly against the work they had originally chosen.

Second, nursing and medical schools have historically failed to prepare future professionals for the essential teaching roles that they have with patients and families. Consequently, when they are called upon to teach—daily—they do just as they have been taught. They convey information—and call that teaching. In their understandable states of distress and confusion, family members may misunderstand that information. They may be overwhelmed by it. They may forget it. They may deny it. They may not hear it at all.

Yet, without learning, there is no teaching.

As developer of professional staff ranging from medical to clergy to law enforcement to working educators, we could see that the hospice staff needed first to experience the difference between what they thought of as teaching and communicating — and how different a patient-centered approach felt like from a patient or family member’s point of view.

It would be quite a turnaround.

THE HUMAN JOURNEY® creates and provides programs for hospice, healthcare, and mission-driven institutions to address the socio-emotional, cultural, and capacity needs of staff that impact their longevity in their work, their effectiveness and humanity with those they serve, and the culture of their organizations. 

Let us hear the story of your organization—your story of staff and patient/client experience.

 

Related Posts

Distressed young woman in bed, with her eyes closed, her hand high on her chest, near her throat, and a pillow on her lap.
Activities & Tools
Sara K Schneider

Beyond “In Through the Nose, Out Through the Mouth”

You’ve seen it a thousand times on television. Just a bit of momentary drama to set the stage. It’s a medical show. Someone is having an anxiety attack. Maybe he’s hyperventilating. The medical professional or first responder fixes her eyes on this (typically) mouth breather

Read More »
Grief & Loss
Sara K Schneider

Marmalade Sandwiches

The marmalade sandwiches started piling up at Buckingham Palace, and at neighboring Green Park, during the first few days after Queen Elizabeth II died. Likely, they were a reference to the Queen’s charming comedy sketch with beloved British storybook character Paddington Bear, a surprise (even for her

Read More »
How THE HUMAN JOURNEY® works
Sara K Schneider

Neither Good Nor Bad

It’s super fun to watch someone’s thinking shift right in front of you. They might jerk still suddenly, their eyes wide and long, like old cartoon figures in a haunted house or a dark cave, when all you could see was the eyes. That’s part of the joy

Read More »
Healing
Sara K Schneider

Becoming the Witness

  I’m an avid reader of Twitter for its political and epidemiological news, which often appear prior to (and prove more informative than) what can be made available under the rubric of conventional media. I continue to be struck by a story that Pulitzer Prize-winning

Read More »
Culture
Sara K Schneider

Your Relationships (By the Numbers)

Even though our relationships might seem like the least quantifiable things we have in our lives, that doesn’t seem to stop people from thinking of them as sums. I’ve seen that play out a few ways.  I’ve met people who talked about their “A” list and

Read More »
Activities & Tools
Sara K Schneider

Pop the Question!

Losing someone you love brings with it a kind of wistful mystery: who was my loved one … really? What do I wish I knew about them that I didn’t even think to ask them while I could? What would I give up chocolate for the rest of my

Read More »