Posts Tagged ‘grieving’


See the source imageHoly Saturday. The day of awaiting. The day of the unknown in Holy Week. When the gospels tell us the men huddled in fear, the women planned how to honour their friend, possible husband, and son through the cultural norms. The day of silence, of unknowing. The day when the Empire and the Oppressors were searching for those who were seen as “co-conspirators” with the messianic rebel Jesus of Nazareth.

The three days in real time, that those who were called friends at a dinner in an upper room, were grieving, experiencing anger, fear, anxiety— trauma of the crucifixion, as the powers to be tried to destroy (and appeared as they had succeeded) in snuffing out hope for being and belonging for all.

In Peter and Mary Magdalene’s mind and hearts I can only imagine the racing, of their love, and calling others into the life had now placed them at risk. Risk of torture, risk of death, and how far would the ripples extend? Would it just be to those that were part of the followers? Those that celebrated on Palm Sunday at the Triumphal Entry? Or would all connected to them made to be an example for the Empire on why you did not think outside the box? Or challenge the norms? Would all be lost simply by a choice they had made to be different? To be heroic in their own time?

These are themes that echo as I read the follow up companion to the Heroes in Crisis mini-series that touched my journey during my own struggles with PTSD. For those who may not know, Heroes in Crisis was a 9 part series about what happens when super heroes need help, the journey of Sanctuary, PTSD, and psychotic break, followed by murder mystery in the realm of healing for those that have answered the call to be heroes. It is now available as a trade paper back and I encourage you to read it.

The second volume, touches on the ripple effects out of that series, much like Holy Saturday. It is the follow up to the deaths. The follow up to the impact on the heroes left behind. Sound familiar in our own world? As we struggle in a pandemic? Watching those who continue to serve, and knowing the dangers, those that will fall ill and may not recover. Just like the journey of mental illness and health, physical health is the same, intertwined together and should, as our Indigenous brothers and sisters keep reminding us, be viewed through the heart lens of Wellness (ala the Medicine Wheel) for all pieces need to come out the other end together).

The same thoughts in the grieving process I can imagine Peter and Mary Magdalene, probably Mary of Nazareth, Jesus’ Mummy reflecting on, I too have held in my own journey and through the darkness to healing into the light anew. Knowing the pain and heart ache that can, and sometime does happen is it right to equip, encourage and prepare others to serve?

This is where we are in Heroes in Crisis: The Price. Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow reacting in anger towards the Justice League for failing his friend who has died. Wrestling with no matter the money he had, he was unable to save his friend. Think of our own responses in loss? How many times does Oliver’s sentiments echo in our own soul? Change out money with other skills, talents, privileges and resilience we have that came to naught when death finally came. Some may say why bring up these hard discussions, can you not read the room with what the world is going through right now?

Yes, I can, and that is why we should be talking about wellness. It is important, especially now. Understanding the cycle storms of grieving and change is important (google U Theory or Kubler-Ross’, also previous writings of mine show these) to know that normal things happen during these times of transition.

For Holy Saturday it is usually a day of contemplative prayer and practiced silence for hearing the Holy Mystery speak to us, as they did nearly 2,000 years ago to those hiding then.

The story unfolds more into the tale of Batman and Flash. Those who raise the question through the story of Gotham and Gotham Girl, about the appropriateness of encouraging and equipping others for the life. The life that can cost so much, that the meta-myth is that they choose to be heroes to protect their loved ones, yet it is their loved ones that continue suffering as a result of the choice.

“I’ve dealt with too many unsolved cases in my life. You and I have so many mysteries as it is…I can’t afford your lies anymore.”

-Barry Allen, The Flash

In the ruins of the Flash museum, still grieving the loss of his nephew and returned friend, Wally West, from Heroes in Crisis, Barry confronts Batman. It echoes the truth in human services, the many times we are left with the unknown, the incomplete, the loss and we create our own narratives to push us through. To be able to continue to function, the ideas “we can’t save them all” or “it’s their choice” or (insert your favourite here). All are truthie, yet all remove the humanity from the equation in the journey, the connection, the intimacy of the journey of healing, and the most importantly that to do the work well, one must see each person as having value for simply being human. Inherent and intrinsic value and worth.

When things are left a mystery, when we are unable to have healthy closure, or when we experience loss of life-

It takes a toll.

And this is the challenge for as the heroes left behind continue answering crisis after crisis, while trying to solve the death of their friends the truth of the situation echoes out. The work never stops, and neither does one’s own life and challenges running parallel. Yet in our own world of service we continually hear the false mantra of efficiency from neo-liberal governance “DO MORE WITH LESS” and we are left broken, for the impossibility and implausibility of it all.

Like Green Arrow’s question in anger at his friend’s funeral to the Justice League, “Where’s Batman and Flash, did he not matter enough?”

The truth was, he mattered, and the work was to find the killer. In the work, they could not let themselves pause, to feel the pain of loss.

Subsumed.

Unable to be with their own humanity.

As we await the new, in the darkness and the uncertain. We are in the house, like the first Holy Saturday, what world do we want to emerge in to? What are you hearing from the Holy Mystery?

Are we going to affirm our value in simply being?

Affirm and live into our collective value of being humanity?


Image result for death of supergirl crisis coverFor comic fans 1984 was a big year. It was the year of the 12 part Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series from DC Comics, the first ever cross over in a comic universe that shook the foundations and brought the deaths of Supergirl and The Flash (Barry Allen). Flash forward to the CW Arrow-verse and it has been a recurring theme in the Flash t.v. show, Crisis and the Flash’s vanishing, it has shaped his character and actions knowing that it is about preparing his family, friends and team for the time in history when he is no longer there. That’s right, Barry’s identity has been shaped by this momentous martyrdom.

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and suitHit 2019 and the Crisis on Infinite Earths cross over hits the airwaves, and the Flash episode is the 3rd part (and since we have Netflix and not cable in my house, sadly the only part we get).

But it was fun. What kind of fun? Two of my favourite dark universe creations, John Constantine Hellblazer goes searching for the soul of Green Arrow in purgatory and on Earth 666, Luci (yes I love Luci as a great foil, and he was in pure splendid Vertigo form).

Aside from these types of team ups…the core story was the time for Barry Allen to Martyr himself. It is like vocation for all of us, we have a career path, what we do in life, whether or not we want it to, it is what defines us  because it is what society asks us to define who we are in our societal caste system. Employment/career/vocation you are what you do.

This is what Flash is in this moment, a hero, a soon to be martyr. Yet to stop the anti-matter wave of destruction he is not the only Flash, there is the Earth-90 Flash (yes the 1 season fun show on CBS) is there as well…and…well a Flash perishes to stop the crisis, and our Flash of Earth-1 is left stripped of the identity that had defined his herodom.

It was glanced over rapidly in the episode obviously his move through the emotional spectrum, but it is something to remind us when friends are unemployed, or something has shifted health wise so that they may not be doing what they used to do. It is a trauma to them. May sound like a powerful word, but it is a word that builds an image I hope, as it is something that cuts to the core of identity that society has shaped us with–it is about our purpose in community. As such, it takes us through the stages of change and grieving whether you use Kubler-Ross, Stages of Change or U-Theory (or a plethora of others) there is the event- the struggle (anger/denial/bartering) acceptance- healing– moving forward…

Too often though we trap ourselves within the microcosm of pain…and lose ourselves in the anger and denial over our current spot in life. What is lost when that happens is that we cannot see through the current darkness to follow the constant light to what awaits. For with each challenge, loss, grief, that we continue to walk through the valley of– a new and better us emerges. Wiser, and more able to be the authentic us, and define who we are through our true core values not a faux litmus test of society. This was what was glanced over in mere minutes of the episode for Barry (Flash), that if it had not been a cross over would’ve made an exceptional story arc of re-establishing who he was as a hero without the identity of self-sacrifice.

As we move through change whether chosen or forced, it is about re-focusing, and re-establishing who we are, stronger in the here and now.

BUT

We must make the journey through the valley, and not freeze at the lowest point, but rise into the light of the new.


The first question arose about the retired Supra agent Jacobs had been seen with after the shoot out at the trailer. He hated turning Sunday Service into a media blitz, but sometimes the Liturgy (work of the people) was about being the catalyst for change. Jacobs chuckled it was a very Catholic Workers or Social Gospel or Liberation Theology movement, but it was true. Today in the parking lot outside the office, as the writ had been dropped and Melanie Moon was no longer an MLA, and the Social Credit party ceased to be. It became outdoor church.

Already the mud slinging by the former governing and former official opposition parties had begun. Jacobs’ heart was to filled with sorrow to track the rants and lies. The fact that old things were dragged up to attack character, but no newer patterns of same behaviour were there to show legitimacy or current causation. That is even though it may be true (an attack, not a smear) it was without merit and did not allow for the fact that human being grow and evolve over a lifetime. Or the stirring of the hate and fear pot. His opening prayer had been simple at this cross roads of grief:

“Loving Creator, we are a people, a province at the crossroads. Change is grieving. We are trapped in anger and denial. Gnashing our teeth and shaking our fists against that which is no longer possible or plausible. We need hope, we need to let go that which was, and be fully present in our new reality, a province where all belong simply because they are. A true community with an open table, that loves as our Brother Jesus commanded and lived for us to do. Let us surrender our pain in this wilderness so that we can let come the new blessings that await… Alleluia!” Jacobs prayed.

As hecklers from the back in blue shirts screamed at him about not being “Heretic! Racist! Not a Christian!”

There was police present, as well as the strip mall complex security. Jacobs waited as the regular attendees of St. Jude’s began chanting “Alleluia! Alleluia! Love Wins!”

Moon nodded to him. Sean James and Beth Venus closed ranks around Jacobs, they knew this could turn sketchy, as he answered the question about Louie Regis. Beth spoke silently into her up turned denim collar so Speedster was aware. Kyla Storm, the Speedster was just on the outskirts of the crowd, her costume hid under a trench coat but ready if powers were needed. Venus stood by her promise to Jacobs, hate had to be defeated with hope, not super hero involvement.

“It’s always funny to get a press question during a church service.” Jacobs spoke again into the outdoor microphone. The regular congregants of St. Jude’s were alternative verses of Jesus Loves Me and Come in, Come in and Sit Down you are apart of the family. “I did not know retired Agent Louie Regis well. I knew of his reputation when the police came to tell me someone had assassinated him. I use that term, because folks need to understand murder/assassination are the same thing. Usually it is title or socio-economics that determine the word choice. Louie may never have made it above working class salary in-spite of his white collar look, but he served our Country. He retired due to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and should’ve been able to rest and heal.” Jacobs takes a sip from the McCafe coffee he had picked up on his way to the parking lot. His eyes scanning for anything that could be a long shot gun. The goon mobs of extremist party members were still trying to agitate, and he noted the attire of some known hate groups as well. He was happy to see that the police and security were starting to root, arrest and move along.

“Unfortunately the passion he put into protecting others, and being their pillar of strength he did not think himself worthy enough of. I hope the Governor General allows for a full honours funeral, and I pray this is a change in the national dialogue around trauma, mental health, addiction and violence so that we can truly become a nation that loves our neighbours, but also loves ourselves with the same love. Louie’s death is a reminder what happens when we only fulfill one part of the second Great Commandment, love of neighbour without honouring our own Imageo Dei. Now back to your regularly scheduled service.”

Melanie Moon opened a well worn New King James Bible, and reads to the gathered crowd:

34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

She hands the microphone back to Jacobs. He finishes off his cup and deposits it in a recycle bin. “Anyone with a passing knowledge of the Hebrew Bible or Donnie Osmond Musicals (editors note for the youngsters: this is a Dad joke about Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, fyi, my daughter says her aunt does Dad jokes better). Knows we need to pay attention to dream work for sometimes it is simply our subconscious dealing with bull shit, other times it is a healthy place to release the hurt and pain. Sometimes it is where we learn…and on a very slim moment it can be a mystical experience.

I had one of those multi-coloured mystical moments. To the citizens of this province I want to let you know that our hero is not coming to pull us out of this quagmire of fear and hate. The original Bionic Knight is gone.”

Jacobs let that sink in, seeing some faces tear up, even the hecklers, bullies and aggressors in the audience were gob smacked.

“His name is Rick Saturn, his wife was our beloved mayor that vanished last year, Susan Kobwash. They have two amazing super heroes as children blessed to experience this life with Cerebral Palsy and Autism respectfully. They have joined the pocket verse between the multi-verses…” a few heart beats to let that sink in. “They are living their best life, as both Susan and Rick, and their kids shared with me, he has moved through the destruction wrecked by the a-typically cellularly ingrained Post Traumatic Stress Disorder into what is known as Post Traumatic Growth… or to a simple shit disturber like me, the path of Light renewal.”

A break out of singing old hymns from all around. Then the voices become more unified as they sing an old favourite of St. Jude’s, John Lennon’s Imagine . As the singing comes to a close, before he continues, Jacobs opens up for the Lord’s Prayer. As is the custom of his congregants, and to the beauty being sent out via the news. They do not pray in English, they may if that’s their language, but Latin is heard, Cree, Blackfoot, German, Russian, many African and Island dialects. For Jacobs he calls it the Pentecost moment of service, where the simple prayer is said and heard so all may hear it in their language.

“Saturn wants us to release our anger and hate. To grieve. Let the tears flow don’t hide behind toxic human beliefs. Feel. Love. He knows he can be in the next phase of life, for the hope is here already within each of us. The still small voice that speaks what is honest, good, and true. That which allows us to have compassion for ourselves and neighbour, and to truly know that the only way forward to a bright future is by embracing the beautiful Mosaic like is gathered here today.”

Venus and James watched the rabble rousers, the next part was the heading to the closer, and the benediction was going to be the tell.

“So my family, however you identify we are connected through the holy spark, that blessed breath that gave us life. Listen to the simple words of Jesus, Love your neighbour as yourself. It is how we show love for God. If anyone piece falls down, we are not truly living the sacrament of Holy Love…and then hate and fear win. So Love.”

Another break out of campfire hymn singing. As it quiets down, Jacobs picks up the bread “On the night he was betrayed, betrayed out of fear and hate for change, for the old ways dying away. For those oppressive powers and control authorities realizing they needed to release and let go and let come the new Holy Love. Jesus took bread and broke it. This is the bread of hope.” As if on cue lunch bags, snacks, you name it started coming out, and a potluck smorg was shared with all. It was St. Jude’s way. Communion was not just a simple piece of bread it was eating, like the feeding of the masses miracle. Jacobs handed the bread to Moon and James who let it out to the crowd, as well as the baskets of sandwiches.

He nodded to Beth Venus. The next part. “Then he took the cup, knowing that his blood was about to be spilled. That he was to lose his life for simply sharing the story of Holy Love and belonging. This is the cup of promise. Drink and be at the table together as family.” Beth got volunteers to begin rolling out coolers with juice, pop and water to share.

She noted tears in people’s eyes at the simple acts. Those in hate garb, some let it drop off as they made eye contact for the food. Simple, kindness.

“Go now in Holy Love of the Creator, the blessing of Brother Jesus, and the Family of the Holy Spirit. Go. Embrace. Simply say, I love you.”

The pop shattered the moment.


I have been blessed in my 21 years of ministry to be involved in many great blessings. From blessing civil weddings; watching equality rights flourish; acceptance and belonging in spots for all people; breaking bread at a potluck; public prayers and laments; fun sing-a-longs; Serving the Eucharist; hearing one’s Truth and Reconciliation journey; anointing; affirming calls…teaching, speaking and preaching on all manner of topics from a holistic perspective, being apart of creating sacred and sanctuary space or more simply, home, for community and individuals… and yes all this across a myriad of spiritualities and philosophies.

Ashes to Ashes

Dust to Dust.

-Anglican BCP Funeral Liturgy excerpt

Yet, one thing is an outlier. Grief and change. We do not want to grieve. For we equate grieving with death.

Yes, grieving is a part of death.

But grieving is also apart of change. Minor or major dependent on the change (transition) within our lived lives. It is why recovery of any can, is challenging, for there is a transitional change and we mourn what is now, and have trepidation for what is to be born.

Much the same, in the 600 journeys I have had the sacramental (sacred) privilege with family, friends, clients, neighbours, and congregants in journeying with to what lies in the next life.

The great unknown.

One thing I have always stood in when it comes to grieving and loss of life in this world, is know what you believe. Be open to learning and discovery. Those two pieces are invaluable before entering into any kind of human service, for they will not teach it in a text book, it is an experiential discovery that has sidelined many a vocation earlier than necessary.

It became a discomfortable expertise, but a comfort in my own belief system and aiding someone in discovering/affirming their own beliefs whether it be in healing from their own grief, or becoming comfortable with their own transition. Also being able to sit in the silence, with the tears that heal, and know that sometimes, there is no pat “holy answer” (despite what every religion, spirituality and philosophy of life tries to peddle to you) and that it beyond acceptable and okay in life. I never knew 21 years ago cracking open an old King James family Bible to teach some Junior high youth that one of my sacramental expertise’s would become the funeral liturgy, and the journey of grief.

What I do know for sure:

I have no clue what comes next from this life, and that is okay.

I do not know why children die, in fact it is kind of a universal dick move.

But I do know the great cosmic story, and the greatest thing is love. From that breath of love is the source of the cosmic dust we share with all of creation. We are birthed into this world…and when we pass away from this world and our physical body returns to the elements…

The soul cosmic born of love, returns to the eternal river that is love.

The journey of life is simple, live the love your were born from.

Some Listening:

Kenny Chesney “Get Along” video here.

Luke Bryan “Most People are Good” video here.


What follows below is the latest letter I have written to Hon. David Eggen, the Minister of Education in Alberta. It is in regards to the casting aside of compassion towards the disabilities community within the education system. It is about families that mourn, staff that mourn, and the inability of the system to step outside of their own prejudices to respond as they would to any school community in mourning. It is solution focused. I encourage all to write the Hon. Eggen (education.minister@gov.ab.ca ) to call out and begin to work to eliminate the last acceptable passive/active hate within our educational community. My words follow, mine only, but I am sure others have their own stories, solutions (or best practices that may exist that are working for true belonging) to share with a rather responsive education minister, unlike previous years and administrations where I have heard nothing. I will keep you dear reader, up to date as possible on this struggle for belonging that should not need to be, because it is 2018.

Today’s e-mail:

Dear Hon. Eggen,

I write you today as a weary parent. Weary of the battle for my child, and his education community of supports to receive equity in care and compassion by the educational system.  I was encouraged to write you once more due to the systematic Ableism (used to be called Eugenics, that is persons with disabilities and those in their lives had less value in inherent personhood, and we should just accept their demise). This came about, as there is a practice when a child with disabilities passes away within the education system that appropriate grief and mental health supports are not brought in for the staff and the other children. The response given is that “they do not comprehend” for the child, and to the staff “it is part of the job, they die” (probably nicer words used for staff, but having served in various non-profits I can see it being that blunt). The attitude is that death is to be expected, and not taken in as deeply as when a “typical child” passes away.

What is missed is that children no matter what professionals say are empathetic, and feel deeper than we ever will. They are more accepting of belonging, and know long before we do when their friend’s spot in the class will be empty. I cannot count the number of friends my son has lost in his short 6 years (grade 1 to 6) within the public-school system in Calgary, but I know the depth of his sorrow, he has soaked through many shirts of mine with his tears, and beaten on my chest in his anger.

The standard practice we have long fought against is the form letter. We worked with the local school to at least personalize the letter to share whom the child was in community, and supposed to receive a phone call if they are in the classroom from the principal (though it can appear favouritism by family on whom is contacted is played). But it leaves the families receiving notification, and then with very little extra-funding helping their child wrestle through loss and complexity, knowing  the staff are wrestling through their own grief with little administrative support, plus wrestling through our own fear and loss within the community of medically complex children.

I write with a four-fold practice for Alberta Education to remedy ableism that has been accepted down the line:

1)      Training and equipping of administration, trustees and school staff outside of those providing services (and those who provide) to ensure the erasure of passive ableism, and generationally held eugenic beliefs towards the community. We have practice for this with TRC and GSA’s. Time to break the last hate group down and expose it.

2)      The families of the student who passes needs to be provided (and have readily available within schools, like medical clinics) resources for the loss. I do not care what anyone says, it is not normal for a child to pre-decease their parent.

3)      When a child passes, staff need to be cared for. This is Principals, Maintenance, Administration, Teaching, Aides and volunteers within the school. It is not acceptable to say death distance is professionalism, when you build a community of belonging- the loss is felt and help needs to be brought in within best practice principles of debrief within the first 24 hrs, 72 hrs, and follow up protocols for staff that continue to struggle.

4)      Information for grief support to the families of friends needs to be distributed with notification, and I would say the school needs to host a form of celebration for the community member, so the children know that their friend belonged in the world and is not some coded statistic. Also along with this celebration, the same debrief needs to be used to provide grief support for the children, no matter how complex their communication or medical conditions are. They are aware of loss.

Why is this important? We are a scrapper family when it comes to rights, I am on multiple records for many battles to ensure full dignity and human rights for all citizens. To have to fight within a system to prove my son is cognitive enough so he can “earn” a spot to be on a wait-list for grief support if his behaviours around grieving become unmanageable is inhumane. It says to the family, the community, and most importantly to my son: YOU ARE NOT HUMAN ENOUGH for us to care about.

That is quite frankly wrong, and disregards so much of our human, charter and constitutional rights. Many good changes are happening to put students and frontline staff first within our education system of Alberta finally. I implore you to remember all children and staff/volunteers deserve the same care when a classmate/student passes, regardless of what society and professionals deem. All staff in the system also deserve the same level of care. Public Education is community, and as community we learn, grow and celebrate together, we also mourn together. Let us remember that.

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Ty Ragan

To close, my Facebook post from late June 6, 2018 when I was informed by an Ableist I had no right to anger at another white envelope:

Parents imagine at least once a month being informed that your child has had a friend pass away in their class. Then imagine there being no grief supports sent in for the kids or staff for coping, and the only communications is a letter home… when you ask why I am angry about people not seeing my boy as fully person–this is his reality. He cries on me. Screams why God takes his friends. Talks about how his buddy’s mummas, daddy,s and sibs can keep going…the emptiness. Our children belong, the world says they don’t because the world doesn’t want to have to explain how to heal from a once full chair, now being empty. The world, doesn’t know what to do with a child who asks where’s my buddy? Why do all my friends die on me. Instead they tell me that I have to prove my son comprehends life and death, and then they will think of aid. Is this the world we want? Where compassion and healing is an earned right? So yes I am angry. And yes we need to discuss Ableism (what used to be called Eugenics) openly, and call it out. To my religious friends, if you are not then you have failed. To my other friends, I am tired of a world that says earn your spot. I am tired of a world that says a child’s tears are okay because they don’t understand. I am tired of a world that tells those that walk with them, to accept it as part of the job. NO! We grieve, as we live, in community. I am weary, but I will be damned if I will accept this world as it is. Our children deserve better

 


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.