Professionalism, Grieving and you

Posted: May 27, 2018 by Ty in Spirituality
Tags: , , , , , ,

Much ink has been spilled, bad coffee drank and crusty pastries munched during hours of sessions on the fact that one needs “professional distance” from the client. In fact, when one passes there should be no repercussions as you are to “re-frame” and that “re-frame” is to understand a) suffering has ended, b) what they believe of the afterlife is there, c) you made there life better or d) any other lie one wishes upon themselves to avoid emotions; and in the case of males of a certain age and disposition the healing that comes from tears.

It is bupkus!

(I promise that is a highly technical psychological and theological word).

Grieving is normal. All species grieve in their own way. Rituals are designed (we see this not only in humans, but chimpanzees and elephants to name but a few) to honour those who have transitioned. I have had the privilege to be apart of transitions of individuals of many spiritualities; ideologies; and life philosophies…some that believed in an afterlife, many that did not, but what bonded them was in the moments leading up to transition it was me that got the call to be their chaplain or celebrate their life.

And yes I cried when alone, and the life was celebrated, the team members, community members and family were cared for and healthy beginning their own journey of grieving. Grieving/Grief. Beginning to understand life with the missing person shaped hole in it. Or to use the dinner table analogy, the now empty chair.

I also took offense when any employer or person would suggest that grieving is left to one alone to journey through or “Not our issue.” This is a collective and individual journey.  It is one of the messy conversations of life we need to have with one another, and within ourselves. What do we actually understand about end of life? What does the person we are journeying with understand?

What is their ethics/morals/religious-life philosophies? Those need to be supported and honoured throughout the journey without projecting out own.

BUT (and yes it is one of those big BUTS) we cannot use this to conceptualize professional distance. For within this journey we also have to wrestle through our own questions on the end of life and understanding of life for how do we honour those we journey with, if we do not understand ourselves. We must understand our own beliefs, so as not to impose them upon another. We must understand our own beliefs to be able to celebrate another’s.

Life is terminal as goes the old medical joke. Yes we all pass beyond this world, who knows what lies next (I have some beliefs, and ideas, but truly I will not know until I transition).

I spend quite a bit of time with staff who are new to my teams speaking about this. Some (okay most) are uncomfortable, and do not want to. Stating it is a private matter. Sadly the first journey of transition hits, and it becomes messy and the truth usually emerges: I never wanted to think about it, and now–they are trying to process a core value with the messiness of grieving.

That is why, like self-care, it is best done as part of on the job equipping. It is also something, like self-care, that can change and transform over one’s life span and through experiences. It is one of those check in moments to see what happens, and what changes to continue the journey of understanding you.

That is the key. It is why I speak of human services (from religious clerics to any other helping profession) like a trade, older/veteran staff (us grey hairs) need to function as journeymen/red seals and walk alongside new entries, and mid-career individuals as one would an apprentice. For what is learned/discovered in staying healthy is not always what one learns in their schooling, in-services, lunch and learns, or other learning opportunities.

It is the deep question conversations over lunch or that bad cup of coffee.

It is why those in human services need to understand it is not only our neighbour we serve and are apart of their circles of support (the professional, not the social). Yet we are the humans serving in human services and as such we need to be in the mess within ourselves, and supported by our own professional supports–those are co-workers, mentors, and other professionals we rely on to stay balanced (clergy, psychological, medical, spiritualist, or holistic practitioners).

This also means that the systems need to fully support the understanding of grieving for the community as a whole, and all the person (client/consumer whatever vernacular your field uses) intersected in that community. Supporting all their circles of support- professional and social as they walk the journey into the new. Into the new of seeing the chair that once was their community member, friend, family member.

As the practitioner/staff your responsibility is to know how you understand death and grieving and what you need.

Welcome to the beautiful mess of serving our neighbour and being true to ourselves.

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Comments
  1. Shauna says:

    Very well said. I’ll be sharing!

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