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 family) for her Platinum Jubilee celebrations this summer. The punchline of the widely seen videotaped sketch was the Queen drawing a marmalade sandwich from out her handbag, the fearsome symbol, perhaps, of a woman’s greatest privacy. So that’s what’s inside the Queen! 

Of course, the public memorials also included other perishables, the mountains of flowers one might expect for a figure that a huge percentage of the country deeply loved as a mother or grandmother figure as well as, for some, a divine personage.

Royal Parks staff certainly knew they could not stop the placing of flowers, notes, stuffed animals (and especially Paddingtons) at this site of public grieving. Yet, within a few days after the Queen’s death, the Royal Parks organization requested people not leave marmalade sandwiches anymore at the Palace or Park, as they were not healthy for the wildlife who resided there (or who were attracted by smell or rumor to come) to consume.

It was a funny thing to do in the first place, to place marmalade sandwiches at the gates of the Palace. Yet it was also a beautiful gesture, a recognition of the Queen’s sense of humor and the sign of a commitment to remember it in connection with her.

I don’t have any way of knowing this for sure, but I have the feeling a good number of the sandwiches were left by adults on their own behalf rather than by parents. Whatever it was, it was a way of cementing in memory the playfulness of the Queen, of “construct[ing] a sense of enduring personhood,” in the words of Elizabeth Hallam and Jenny Hockey. 

The Handbag That Goes Along

I believe it was the recently deceased humanistic geographer Yi-Fu Tuan who said that, far from being materialistic, loving things is a necessary condition for loving other people. Our attachments to objects cannot help but be about love. 

I thought about this when my beloved cousin Mickey, an irrepressible spirit even at 96 years old, died this month as well. No one knew whether it was just 100 or more of us who received every year birthday cards with greetings in Mickey’s telltale handwriting, adorned in exuberant musical notes. One of the cousins calculated that Mickey’s birthday cards, placed end to end, would cover four miles. A singer and lover of musical theatre, Mickey was willing to do whatever it took to bring joy to others. 

At her funeral service, we remembered her with another “perishable,” one of her favorite songs. Mickey’s children buried her with the handbag she could never be without, even in her hospital bed. 

Our love goes with her, even as the British may have placed their love at the gates of the Palace.

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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Searching for the Right Words: You, Too, Can Write a Sympathy Card

The number of those jumping a plane for a far-off continent, rather than just write the sympathy card, is anyone’s guess. Tasks that come readily to those who enjoy tooling around with the written word may be terrifying and paralyzing to those who … don’t.

Lots of people suffer quietly from “sympathy anxiety.” They freeze in place as they think, “I might say something that, God forbid, worsens their pain! I’d best say nothing.”

And, likely, even more people suffer from writing anxiety — about writing just about anything. They tell themselves, “Maybe she’ll understand I’m just not a writer, or not the kind of person who knows what to say, even on happy occasions. Maybe it’ll be okay if I just re-emerge once she doesn’t need me to say something wise or comforting.”

By the time you multiple your sympathy and writing anxieties against each other, you’re up a tree, crouched in a nook with your pant hems higher than the tops of your socks.

Me, I like to write. I don’t do it quickly, perhaps because I get hamstrung by some weird concept of perfectionism. Maybe it’s that same perfectionism that, for you, keeps you from writing at all.

So, I’ll tell you what I tell myself.

Get over it.

The person in mourning really isn’t looking at you. And they’re not depending on your note to get them over the entire hump of their grief, just to acknowledge the weight of this loss with some sacrifice of time and heart of your own.

So I thought I’d offer, for anyone who struggles for any reason with this, some ideas that might help when you need and want to bring comfort on paper to those you care about at an impossibly hard time in their lives.

Because the momentousness of their loss is worth your sitting with it, too.

Why the actual note

When people are in the early phase of grief, the big thing they’re missing is so obvious we can overlook it.  It is the physical presence of the one they love. Grievers are suddenly landed in a new reality, one in which they can’t:

  • hear in real time the voice that somehow always implied a smile;
  • hold the arthritic hand whose miraculous smoothness they always marveled at underneath their caress; or
  • rest their head in the doughy lap of a grandparent munching microwave popcorn over them without regard for what gets into their hair.

They miss the physicality, the embodiedness of the one they love.

How about I start with a text? ...

A text or email are way better than nothing, and are useful to get word quickly to someone once you hear of a death.

But please don’t leave it at that! Again, you’ll miss an important opportunity to “re-presence” the person who died in a way that only something put to paper seems to do. If you want to bring as much comfort as you can to others who are ripped open by grief, write by hand.

Like the loved one herself had been, a card or personal letter is physical. It has heft, sound, tactility.

When you recall how their mother’s heel always hit the step up as she came in from the garage, and you listened for it, even as you were rehearsing in the makeshift band studio their house had back in high school, your letter rustles.

When, grinning, you bring to mind their stories of how their best work friend’s shirt always popped the same button without his knowing, your letter has weight in the hand, fragility, texture.

Like the hundreds or thousands of times they saw the one they cared about, they can return to your card over and over again during the early days, weeks, and months of loss for fresh portions of comfort. Your note has presence.

Many people don’t like sharing their handwriting, just like they don’t like taking their socks off in a workshop. It’s just a little personal. But the person who grieves is in that raw state — where the mythical perfection of your vanity just doesn’t matter. And when you share your cryptic or embarrassingly childlike handwriting, you’re entering into the intimate experience of grief.

Finally, some tips

One of the things that, I would guess, make writers good sympathy card authors is something that’s available to everyone. They notice things and they’re not afraid to write about what they notice. All of this takes place before ever putting ink to paper.

How did the man’s wife always slip away from the table when the conversation turned to something that interested her less?

What adjectives did the young girl seem so often to use when she described her grandfather to you?

How did the man and his dad spend their time together, even if you know about it solely from stories over drinks?

Just by noting the habitual, you’re re-summoning the life of the person who died, bringing to mind memories that re-conjure and comfort.

  • The person who died had qualities that appeared over and over again, that were part of their character.
  • They did certain things over and over again, that became habits or gestures.
  • They enjoyed certain things repeatedly, becoming part of the trail of love with which they honored the world.

Giving words to the habitual is a deep way of re-presencing the one who left.

Consider including:

  • Words that give a feeling for the legacy of the person – a memory that will stay with you, or, if you didn’t know the person, a sense of their legacy as it lives on in the person grieving.
  • A sense of the enduring or eternal qualities the person represents for you (e.g., thinking of others first, doing the honorable thing, making the most of any situation, ensuring that everyone felt welcome).
  • Your wishes for comfort, peace, the resolution of difficult feelings in time (if you were close to the person experiencing the loss), while recognizing that all of these things will take real time.
  • Subsequent cards or notes, sent awhile after the initial one. Grief carries on. It will be something very special for the griever if you observe the anniversary of their loved one’s death. But you don’t have to wait that long either. Most of the attention mourners get is in the first month after a loss. Grief resolves way after that. Stay with the person as grief continues to be the big thing in their lives. Let them know they continue to be in your thoughts.

And remember, you don’t have to wait until their person dies! When you know the person is seriously ill, you can send notes of strength and reminders to take care. Anticipatory grief is a “thing.”

The best sympathy cards reflect:

  • Your having sprung into action: not waiting to write once you hear the news.
  • Your having, at the same time, slowed down once you began to write so that you have sat with the person who died, the griever, and yourself. Bring all of them into your heart. DWELL with them. See what comes up. Keep the writing, though, off yourself, and your own experiences with grief.
  • Sensory descriptions of the qualities you associate with the person who died that truly distinguish them from others. Sometimes a subset of the quality works better than the big category. Kindness? (Readiness to take others under their wing without lording it over them.) Sense of humor? (Punning.) Love for animals? (That time he gently squeezed the bunny to the other side of the chain-link fence when an enthusiastic Labrador Retriever frightened him into it.)
  • Your sticking with it.

I didn’t make it easy for you, did I? It’s not supposed to be easy. Just know your note will always be remembered as a true gift of your heart at a time of real need in someone else’s.

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Leave It at the Door

You likely care about someone who is, or will be, grieving. I’d like you to give you some thoughts about how to help.

Please have a look at this note a school librarian found outside her front door or slipped underneath. Whose day wouldn’t a letter like that make?

Reginae’s letter got me to thinking about the skills people need in order to be with those who are grieving.

In the grief workshops I do for organizations, part of what I teach is how to be a presence who is not trying to mitigate, fix, or remove others’ grief, but rather a container that helps them bear it.

This is essentially practicing a way to be there usefully rather than harmfully.

Having thought about Reginae’s gesture, I’m going to add a new practice.

In a way, it’s how also to not be there, at least in terms of creating social obligation for someone who, grieving, has very little energy to give back.

Reginae—the girl who wrote this love letter to her school librarian—sealed it in an envelope, tucked it under the welcome mat or slipped it under the office door, then ran like the dickens!

Reginae’s got a basic skill going we all could learn from.

Leaving It at the Door

Normally, when we give, we do so as part of a larger social contract that involves reciprocity. Someone gives us a compliment, we say something pleasing in return.

But when someone’s energy is siphoned into grieving, ordinary social reciprocity is simply not possible for a very long time. As you may have experienced yourself, when you’re grieving, you may not have the energy or the perspective even to ask how your friend or colleague is in return.

So another key skill for us to get better at when we’re trying to support someone who’s grieving is suspending any expectations of reciprocity in friendships for whatever time it takes for someone to come back and do the “work” of friendship again — including reaching out, offering invitations, listening, offering support, being available for shared fun.

We need to learn to leave it at the door ... and run.

In Indian, Indonesian, and Puerto Rican cultures, gifts are customarily opened away from guests — in part to save face for the receiver. With the common practice in the United States of expecting a reaction from a gift or gesture at the time it is given, it’s worth our taking a second look at the benefits of simply … leaving it at the door.

Let's Make It Practical.

You make an offer in a firm, non-asking way. (The most they should have to say back is “no.”)

I’ll be dropping off a complete supper for you and the family Friday night at 5:30; all you’ll need to do is warm it up in the microwave.

I’m going to bring fresh flowers every week this month unless you tell me to stop.

I’m going to come pick you up for lunch on Thursday. It’s my treat.

I’m picking you up for a weekend at my house. Pack a book.

I’ve got an appointment for you for a massage at my favorite massage therapist’s. Does Saturday at 1:00 work or do you need a different time?

I’ve been wanting to try this gentle yoga class. How about I pick you up at 6:00 and we can do it together?

Why It Can Be Better Not to Ask

Some people helping the grieving tend to ask for a lot of affirmation: Am I giving you what you need? Am I doing it right?

Or worse, they proffer the ever-present, “Let me know how I can help” or “I’m here if you need anything.”

They put the burden on the griever to recognize what they need when they are already numb, depleted, or beyond the ability to put feelings into words.

If a griever is even able to name what they need, they then have to determine how to ask for it and face the risk of naming a need, only to have the person say no. That’s a lot of work when you can’t think.

Refrain from putting them in that position.

Instead, just drop off:

A baker’s dozen of bagels.
A selection of candles.
Regular notes of love and support with the assurance that no reply is expected.  
A basket of healthy snacks.
A scented eye pillow or fleece throw blanket.
A beautiful journal.
A photo frame.
Food. Food. Food.
A phone call every other day, without fail, at 7:00 p.m. A voicemail message that expresses caring and “no need to call back.”
Notice of a tree planted or a star named.
A basket of extra-special foods or foods traditional to the griever’s culture.
A plant that needs very little maintenance with super-simple instructions.
A beautiful set of thank-you notes, consistent with the person’s taste, for them to use in writing thank-you’s.

Bath salts or a diffuser and essential oils in a scents you know the person likes.

Do not forget chocolate!

What do all these things have in common? They take time and consideration — all of which is done in your own time, without asking any of the energy or time of the griever. 

In other words, just don't make them come to the door.

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Alan M. Schneider, 1925 – 2022

When my father died two weeks ago, on February 23rd, in addition to his human grandchildren and a couple of “grand-dogs,” he also left a “grand-invention,” THE HUMAN JOURNEY®, his daughter’s progeny.
 
I’ve never thought to give him credit for it in public. Instead, in podcast interviews and other settings, I’ve pointed to the exposure I received as a child to figures such as Elisabeth Kübler-Ross through my mother’s work as well as to the importance of my time with my mother before her 2005 death in hospice.
 
Today, two weeks after Alan’s death, his influence suddenly seems as readily apparent as hers.
 
On the face of it, THJ couldn’t be farther from my father’s field of endeavor; he was a rocket scientist who taught at the University of California, San Diego.

By contrast, THJ is an invention in the realm of human dynamics and development, a process for human groups in life crisis that draws on my own background in the arts and social sciences. It certainly doesn’t stem directly from physics, mathematics, or even everyday spatial reasoning.
 
Yet THJ has everything to do with Alan’s influence. Two weeks into remembering him after he became, in his own former words, “no longer on this planet,” it all feels a direct path from him to THE HUMAN JOURNEY®. Yesterday, I was stunned to come across an article of his called “Navigation for Rendezvous in Space,” published the year before I was born.
 
What a metaphor for the facilitation, or navigation, THJ Conductors do of groups whose members are trying to find each other in space and time and under duress. Granted, in aerospace, “rendezvous” is actually a technical term that can refer to the meeting of a vehicle launched from Earth and a satellite. Yet our struggle to find each other, as well as the Conductor’s challenge of turning us toward each other under stress, feels strikingly the same.

As the sometimes prototypical engineer, replete with 1950s heavy-rimmed glasses and a breast-pocket full of pens, Alan was a tinkerer in systems. He upheld always finding “the right tool for the job” as he sought out the ideal in every object, process, and habit. (Yes, it could be exhausting living with him.)  One pen was clearly more precisely attuned than another to the task of creating a certain kind of diagram. There was such a thing as a perfect cup of tea, and you could lose your desire for it by the time he stopped fussing over its preparation. When high-performance clothing first came out, he was all over it (though he failed to see the inefficiencies in having a travel vest with so many pockets that he needed a diagram to know where he’d put all his essentials).
 
Like Alan, I was interested in systems and in the interactions among elements — or in my case, people. Only I did that in a subfield of cultural anthropology. As I strove to create a tool that would address the problems not of orbital systems but of family systems that needed a process for for bringing people together, I too tinkered endlessly during playtesting with process.

There was the overarching narrative.

There was the interaction among “bodies,” not in space but here on the ground.

There was the mode of “navigation” and rightsizing the role of the Conductor.

There was backstopping for the things that could go off course so that the “rendezvous” could be successful no matter what participants did with it.
 
One “vest pocket” after another until I was satisfied.
 
As my father grew older, he moved from thinking about launching rockets to exploring the human applications of what he knew, focusing on bioengineering projects to help stroke patients with limb movement and patients undergoing cardiac surgery with blood pressure regulation. He had a profound and boundless empathy for anyone who suffered. THJ teaches empathy and the ability to shift perspective when other members of your group are also enduring their own suffering.
 
A week ago, it was hard to know how to move from personal grief into work designed to support those undergoing grief and loss. This week it seems less remote. While, in addition to leading the THJ trainings, I have been teaching workshops on how frontline staff can help those who are grieving while they themselves may be grieving, I am now discovering another layer — grieving myself while teaching the grieving to support the grieving.

Circles within circles within circles — like the orbits within my father’s gyroscope, which I now possess and stare at.
 
I don’t know if Alan could have seen these direct lines of succession. I now do. Finding “Navigation for Rendezvous in Space” helps me see this gift from him to where it’s headed next.

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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

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Sara K Schneider

Your Relationships (By the Numbers)

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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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Hospice Volunteers Are Back! The Rush to Hire, the Rush to Take Part

It’s a truism that the pandemic has had people dealing with loss, bereavement, and fear of loss in a mass—and massive—way.

What may be surprising is how many young people are now thinking about their own and others’ mortality, sometimes outstripping their elders’ focus on the subject. In one U.K. study during COVID, members of Gen Z became four times readier than their parents to make a bucket list or to generate conversations about death and dying with members of their families. 

As hospice volunteer programs begin to welcome volunteers for in-person visits again, many prospective, including younger, volunteers are thinking about where to apply their talents. You may be one of them, wondering what you’ll get to do, after you complete hospice volunteer training.

You’ll find your efforts as a volunteer are appreciated in hospice perhaps more than in any other field, as volunteers have always had a privileged position in hospice culture. Medicare even requires that 5% of care hours be provided by volunteers as an integral member of the care team.

Are hospice volunteer trainings back on?

During the pandemic, hospice staff members were able to have much more limited contact with patients. Only the medical teams had direct contact, while chaplains and social workers had to do their work at a distance (a painful reality for groups who so deeply care about their patients). Hospices didn’t send out volunteers to patients’ homes and may have suspended new volunteer recruitment and training. Even so, some hospice volunteers remained quite active as they made masks and gift baskets and supported families and the goals of the hospice from a distance.

Prior to the pandemic, there were more than 400,000 trained hospice volunteers in the United States. As hospices open to new volunteers again, they face a more pressing need for them than ever before. In these last two years, some staff members quit hospice work entirely, concerned about preserving their family members’ health during the pandemic. Those who remain are more tightly strapped for time than ever.

Unique among hospice care providers, volunteers can spend real time with the patient, rather than having to rush off to the next one. Because of this, they are the only ones, sometimes, who learn the patients’ and the family members’ stories or sit vigil with the patient and family.

What do hospice volunteers get to do?

Many hospices are open to bringing in volunteers’ unique talents, whether that be singing or playing music, bringing in their therapy dogs, or helping with community education efforts.

The range of activities volunteers perform depends on the hospice. For volunteers who have direct contact with the patient and family, they may offer an ear or a quiet presence, or may read aloud to the patient. They may give much-needed respite to a family member who has not been able to leave the house to do grocery shopping or to have a doctor’s or beauty shop appointment. Or they may do the things that the family most needs, from walking the dog to helping with shopping or household chores.

They may also further the goals of the hospice by helping in community education efforts, such as the Mobile Education Unit that Minnesota-based Moments Hospice used to bring hospice education out to the community. Amplifying staff efforts with volunteer staffing has helped further hospice education and the goal of bringing understanding of the hospice approach out into the community. As community members become more comfortable with the notion of hospice, they will also choose hospice earlier. Why does this matter? Because the earlier in their disease process that patients elect hospice, the better the quality of care, and thus quality of life, they are able to have.

They may help staff a hospice gift shop whose proceeds help fund the hospice’s services, or offer administrative support in the office. They may create memorial teddy bears, using fabric from a loved one’s favorite garment, while enjoying the camaraderie they gain from other compassionate craftspeople. Some volunteers are permitted to assist in bereavement support groups.

Volunteers can offer support for the annual events that hospices typically offer to honor those who have died over the past year. Many hospices offer a Tree of Lights ceremony during the holidays to honor those who have died. Valley Hospice of Wheeling, West Virginia has its own Butterfly Garden and holds a Memorial Butterfly Release as a form of remembrance and comfort for family members.

Some volunteers continue to work on the bereavement side, making bereavement phone calls, checking in on family members who have suffered a recent loss and seeing what resources they might need.

In recent years there’s been great interest in the hospice world in supporting veterans with the unique needs they have at end of life. Volunteers who are themselves veterans may have the opportunity to make a special connection working with a fellow veteran, including pinning their patient in a special recognition ceremony to honor their service and sacrifice.

Even young people can participate through the Hospice Dreamcatchers Foundation, an organization currently operating in 15 states that pairs high school students with people in hospice care and helps them fulfill an end-of-life wish. The Dreamcatchers Foundation has fulfilled wishes to take a final turn on the dance floor, to have a birthday party for the first time, to attend a car show, or to ride in a helicopter.

What does hospice volunteer training involve?

To get to participate in any of these activities – or to suggest activities of your own to the hospice’s volunteer coordinator – you must first complete hospice volunteer training, which is commonly about 16 hours long, and includes the ethical, psychological, physical, and practical dimensions of working with those with terminal illness and their family members. Individual hospices have a lot of freedom to handle these expectations in their own style. Remember, as hospices are considering you as a volunteer, you are also interviewing and considering them as an organization whose model of care you want to support with your time, compassion, and good judgment.

THE HUMAN JOURNEY® trains both professionals and compassionate citizens to guide families through our transformational signature experience of belonging, meaning-making, and deep listening. Our training schedule is here. We also welcome you to share your needs for your hospice or professional practice with us in a conversation.

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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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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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The Accidental Grief Coach

Life coaches tend to focus on the positive and on the future, on where their clients want to go from here. Coaches may want to see a client through a career change, a nutritional goal, or a commitment to becoming a better girl- or boyfriend. For a variety of reasons, some therapists even re-train because they, too, want to be present- and future-directed in their work and to have shorter-term or more practical engagements with their clients. 

Yet it’s hard right now only to be practical and future-oriented. Over the past two years in the U.S., hundreds of thousands of deaths have occurred that can either be attributed to COVID directly or as a secondary effect, i.e., because of strain on the healthcare system or people’s reluctance to get customary treatment during a surge. As a result, a huge portion of the population is grieving one or more losses of family members or close friends. And many, if not all, of coaches’ clients are grieving the loss of a job or a business, the ability to engage in unfettered social relations, the postponement of a lifecycle celebration, or their perception of life as it once was. As a coach, you can’t pretend these losses away.

As the their industry rebounds in 2022 from the pandemic, coaches now need to be prepared to be dealing with clients who are grieving. That is simply where clients are.

In this newsletter, we focus on two questions: 

  1. Does the fact of so many people dealing with grief mean that the traditional forward-focus of the coach and client’s work together is delayed or held back until the grief can be “dealt with”?
  2. What does a life coach need to incorporate in order to work effectively with a client who is grieving?

Grief Actually Can Help the Goal- and Future-Focus of Coaching

Helping clients drop down into their childhood selves—the ones who played without inhibition, dreamt of a future without thinking of reasons why not, and were confident in their gifts—can hold the key to a future next step. Working with a client’s stories and memories can bring you the nugget of an image, a glimmer of a vision that can take you both forward.

Try relaxing some of your training or inclination toward forward movement and goal orientation to allow grieving to take place on its own schedule. You may have just the opportunity you need to find that kernel that gives the client that sense of propulsion and specificity for what comes next. Coming to a plan doesn’t necessarily erase the grief; rather, it allows their best life, in Lois Tonkin’s phrase, to “grow bigger around it.”

So elicit, with patience, the stories of the person’s relationship with the person who died, of the long-dreamt-of restaurant business that didn’t survive the pandemic, of the long-distance relationship that really had promise. Listen for and draw out the joys, the dreams, the visions, and the gifts. Stories about grief are stories about love—and love is your material for helping them set goals.

When the Life Coach Becomes a Grief Coach

The tools that will be most useful to you are those that involve LESS active doing! Keep in mind the things you already know:

That grief takes time to heal and does so on its own schedule and in its own way. If you can give up some of your goal orientation, you will be free of a battle that grief would win anyway!

That people have a hard time concentrating and remembering things when they’re grieving. Set goals appropriate for someone whose mind is not operating at its best and celebrate the small wins.

That social support helps! (Just drop us a note if you’d like to receive our “Creature Comforts Checklist” to help your client build social support among those closest to them.) You may not be accustomed to incorporating or getting to know the family and friends of your direct client. However, if they’re dealing with grief, possibly the best resource they have are the people who care about them, even if they are grieving, too.

In short, you don’t have to retrain entirely in order to support a life coaching client who’s grieving. Just begin by incorporating sensible tools while recognizing the gifts of grief, even for charting a client’s positive future. 

THE HUMAN JOURNEY® provides professionals of many disciplines with skills to bring social support to life transitions. Consider hopping aboard the next “train”!

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Pop the Question!

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Death Doula Training Isn’t the “End” of It

Once you complete any death doula training you need, and you hang out your shingle to offer your services to the public, you begin to realize that what you call yourself matters.

You may have noticed the array of names for how providers in your field refer to themselves. They may be “death doulas,” “end of life doulas,” “death midwives,” or “end of life coaches.” If they focus on the journey of the family after the death of the patient, they may go by “bereavement midwives” or “grief doulas” (or any of the possible variations thereof!).

Consider the feeling, or connotation, each of these terms conveys. Each of the professional terms emerges from a different history. The term “doula” actually comes from a Greek root, meaning a woman who serves. Naturally, doulas are now both female and male, and we generally associate the term with those who help expectant mothers through labor and childbirth. Some male doulas are wittily called “dude-las.”

It matters what you call yourself, not only for how you think about your profession, but for bringing the right people your way, the people who want what you offer.

"Death Doula" vs. "Death Midwife"

In the world of labor and birth, midwives are the ones who provide medical care, while doulas offer the expectant mother emotional, spiritual, and physical care. The role of professional birth doula was born when most births moved out of the home environment and into the world of hospitals, and as family members thus became both less involved and less knowledgeable about helping with births.

Similarly, as the act of dying moved out of the home, having someone who knew how to accompany and to provide comfort and support to them and their families became central to the dying experience.

The choice between the terms “death doula” and “death midwife” conveys the subtlety of the difference between offering support and offering complete expertise across the transition. Some people who have a terminal condition may conceptualize what they need as support during a challenging time, while others consider their need to be having someone there who will accompany them on the complete journey of transition to whatever the other side holds. The term you choose should communicate well how you conceive of the services you offer.

By the same token, as you present your services to the public, you must decide whether it is “death” or “end of life” that your services center on. One advantage of a term such as “death doula,” as compared with “end of life doula,” is that it offers a clear mirror with the term “birth doula,” and, in a relatively young profession, helps educate those who may never have met—much less engaged the services of—a doula for their final period of life as to what you offer.

On the other hand, a variety of reasons may cause someone to prefer the term “end of life” to “death.” Perhaps it seems more positive, or more focused, like hospice philosophy in general, to enhancing the quality of someone’s final months, weeks, or days. Or perhaps using “end of life” enables the potential client to come to terms with the finality of their condition in a gentler fashion.   

Use the language your audience uses (not necessarily the term your death doula training used!)

We live in a culture that can be cagey about talking about death. Clearly, you’ve overcome enough of your own hesitation in order to enter this meaningful field. Of course, those you serve are facing their first death! Unlike you, they may not have given this stage of life much thought up to now, and are almost certainly approaching it with a complex mix of emotions, especially given that death feels pretty personal.
 
A reputable survey found that more people are electing to die at home than at any time since the early 1900s. And, by 2016, the number of those making the choice to die at home exceeded those dying in hospitals. The aging of our population is outstripping the younger people available to care for them, making becoming a death doula (or offering death doula training) a ripe field.
 
Pay attention to the words that your first clients are comfortable with and be willing to change your terminology to fit what your existing clients are telling you. You can adapt to a way of describing what you do that is informed by what you learn from your clients, even as their terminology changes with the times.

Incorporate your specialty as a tagline

If you offer special services such as massage or art therapy if there is an aspect of your work that you’d like to be expanding, you can emphasize that as a tagline on your website and business card, distinguishing yourself among the expanding field of those who work with the dying and their families.

Our own specialty at THE HUMAN JOURNEY® is training end-of-life doulas (or whatever name you end up choosing for yourself!) and others who work with families at points of transition to guide them in our structured process that promotes long-lasting belonging, the meaning-making that can ease anticipatory grief and bereavement, and communication about the values that matter. We’d love to share it with you.

 

Pastoral Care and Counseling in the Realm of Grief

Christians might call those who visit families going through grief or life challenges their pastoral care team or visitation ministry. Jewish congregations might call their congregational practice of visiting the sick or in need Bikur Cholim. Compassionate members of congregations and spiritual groups across Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, as well as other groups, also visit those who are anticipating or grieving a loss. Across all religions, illness, death, and grieving are central to the practice. Pastoral care and counseling should address grief and loss, as many turn to faith to answer these issues.

Whatever you call those members of your congregation who offer compassion and pastoral care to the those who are wrestling with difficult news or life situations, they are are a godsend to clergy who use them well.

Do you recognize yourself in the stereotype of the minister or rabbi, or imam who feels as though he or she must answer every call for pastoral care rather than to delegate?

Keep in mind that, just because a congregational member asks for you, that doesn’t mean you need to be the one to provide the care they need. The actual solution that answers what they need may be different from what they’re able to identify as the solution they want.

Do you have the resources to implement pastoral care and counseling on your own?

For a moment, compare the solution you’ve come up with—that it has to be you who makes every visit—with a saying in the consulting world. There, it’s a maxim that what the client identifies as their need is very often not the actual need, when you consider what actually works. We are notoriously bad at identifying our own solutions.

It’s natural for most congregation members to believe that pastoral care and counseling need to come from “the top,” from the person who is their spiritual leader. However, a good part of spiritual care—much as clergy may hate to admit it—actually comes from  being there with a quiet and supportive presence, something that some members of your congregation may already be providing through a bereavement ministry or care ministry. Perhaps that care could be provided more systematically by such a group that already exists by investing time in its professional development. Or if, as many rabbis and pastors say, your congregation’s care ministry has gone unnurtured for some time, maybe it is time to go ahead and ask the people you keep meaning to ask to be part of that care ministry.

It takes discipline to examine your own belief about whether you think that pastoral care can only come from you. Have you not, after all, devoted your life to religious care, leadership, and education in part because you want to foster a caring community within your midst? Consider that it may be your job to cultivate the spiritual gifts of your community by multiplying your efforts at least as much as to provide pastoral counseling directly.

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What Pastoral Training Doesn’t Teach About Grief and Loss

As a pastor, assisting the bereaved offers an important means to touch the lives of those experiencing the loss of a loved one. Indeed, regardless of denomination, this can often be one of the most essential roles that religious institutions can play in the lives of their congregants. In times of mourning, people experience grief in different ways, and grievers require particular sensitivity. The suffering deserve connection and comfort. However, what pastoral training doesn’t teach about grief and loss is essential for understanding how to best serve those in mourning.

Comforting and offering direction to those who grieve is of utmost importance. It is also some of the most challenging work a pastor can take on, and can be exhausting and disheartening. It can also leave pastors feeling underprepared.

In this post, we tackle what pastoral training doesn’t teach about grief and loss, and ways in which people can confront loss through the establishment of purpose and meaning.

Pastoral Training's Approach to Grief and Loss Today

After many months of a pandemic, many if not most of your congregants are experiencing grief in different and unexpected ways. Whether that is the loss of a job or home, a feeling of disconnection from friends, family, and communities, and especially the loss or altered lives of loved ones, grief has taken on myriad forms.

When many people haven’t even been able to be present with those they love who are sick or dying, the process of mourning has become even more fractured. What words can you offer someone who was unable to properly process the death of a loved one?

Pastoral training for grief and loss centers around the moments adjacent to death: the deathbed, the initial loss, the funeral. Yet the timeline of grief does not neatly fall into the same chain of events. Grief can often begin with a diagnosis, and reconciling a loss can ultimately take a lifetime. Anticipatory grief, as a loved one’s health shifts and worsens, or follows an unpredictable path, is critical to reckon with.

Because pastoral training around grief and loss centers on the moments around death, it neglects points during the cycle of grief that can offer opportunities for reconciling that loss. Unfortunately, once losses have been experienced without the proper attention at the right time, the event becomes more difficult to manage and process.

To effectively manage pastoral care for the dying, not just individuals, but the family system needs to be able to derive meaning from impending or past loss. While religion and spirituality may differ from one family member to the next, they are collectively experiencing many of their losses. If they can find meaning together, how much more effectively can they grow closer to each other in their spiritual lives? This is what pastoral training often doesn’t teach about grief and loss.

Yet, to find meaning, the right conversations need to be held at the right times, and with the right people there. Finding the right times to have family conversations is critical for establishing closure.

Helping Those Who Grieve Bring Meaning Forth From Loss

How you touch the lives of those who experience loss can define the ways in which people cope and ultimately provide much-needed, life-affirming care. Deriving meaning out of loss starts before death, and concludes long after. Mourning is a lifelong endeavor that requires a sensitive and perceptive approach.

Rather than focusing exclusively around the moments of death, pastoral care for the sick and dying can begin before death is even a certainty. During the final stages of life, it is often too late to have the important conversations around what one person means to another. The best conversations happen in the period before health takes a turn for the worse, while there is still time to express the things that people mean to each other. These moments are precious and often go neglected.

Starting Hard Conversations

It is important to have difficult conversations about death before it is too late. These often revolve around topics that are hard to bring up or talk about. What do you mean to me? What will you do when I am gone? Will you be able to make it without me?

These questions are hard to bring up, yet they’re at the top of everyone’s minds during the final stages of life. Answering these can provide closure and purpose – leaving them open-ended leads to longing, questioning, and uncertainty.

THE HUMAN JOURNEY® is a grief and loss training and certification program designed to start these discussions. The THJ method is used by a variety of professions centered around loss – social workers, therapists, end-of-life workers, and counselors have all trained to use it with great effect. Because it specifically promotes discussion around spiritual matters, it serves as a method to share in meaning-making, allowing people to comfortably discuss grief, release the past, and perceive a positive future for themselves that can aid in recovery from grief.

Pastoral training around grief and loss focuses on the moments directly around death. While these moments may be the most painful and memorable, failing to have the right conversations beforehand can make the process of mourning much more prolonged and difficult to bear. Learning when to help the suffering, and whom to include, are as important as the act of care itself.

We welcome you to consider joining us for one of our upcoming THE HUMAN JOURNEY® trainings. Feel free to schedule a live demo with Founder Dr. Sara K. Schneider.

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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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At the Reflecting Pool

Grief is intimate. But it is not private.
 
Tuesday, I was profoundly stirred by the memorial ceremony at the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., which occurred as the official count of those who have died from the coronavirus topped an astronomical 400,000.

The ceremony took place at dusk, that haunting, liminal time of day, when day itself dies.

Its elements were as basic as can be.

A procession to the edge of the Reflecting Pool, transformed into a memorial site with light sculptures, each representing 1,000 lives lost to COVID.

An opening prayer.

A brief speech by an official.

From a singer, words and the hymn “Amazing Grace.”

Another speech by an official. 

An invitation to silent prayer, accompanied by the Cohen “Hallelujah.”

A pause, featuring two still couples, public figures, continuing to gaze at the Reflecting Pool.

A recession. 

And then it was over, after maybe 15 minutes. Hardly an earth-shattering program.

But that’s all it took, in its elegance and holiness, to consecrate the deaths of the many who have died since last March and to hold us all as collective mourners. Deaths, many of which have occurred under conditions that no one would ever want for someone they love, separated from anyone they know, family members’ only hope of contact the hand of a stranger, a nurse, engulfed in protective gear.
 
It mattered to have a national ceremony to acknowledge our collective loss.

Of the 400,000 who have died of coronavirus alone in the past year, they have left perhaps 4 million primary mourners.

And then perhaps 40 million people touched by their grief.
 
The astronomical societal impact of that loss will mark us for generations. And that number does not take into account those who have died of non-COVID causes yet who still may have had no family member or friend at their bedside or those who had funerals disfigured by the realities posed by COVID.
 
That brief and thoughtfully devised ceremony, on Inauguration Eve, allowed us all to enter the space of recognized mourners, those who will need care around us, spiritual healing, and community.

As the incoming First and Second Couples turned their backs from the camera to face the Reflecting Pool, they stood in for us as mourners and allowed us to feel all we have lost and all we would have wanted for our dead.
 
And, as heart-stirring as her singing was, the words Detroit-area nurse Lorri Marie Key shared before singing “Amazing Grace” may have offered as much comfort.

Key reflected on the heartbreak that she and her fellow medical staff have felt as their patients died. She gave grieving families and friends the “key” piece of information, that someone who cared deeply was there at the crucial time and that their loved one’s death was marked in the heart of someone who was there.
 
And, in addressing us as “fellow citizens,” Cardinal Gregory called us to the collectiveness of mourning, that the lives that have been lost belong to us all.

The popular phrase “Together, Apart” has seemed a little disingenuous, a little too easy, for the time we are living in. 

On the eve of the inauguration, I felt it to be true.


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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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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.

 

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