By Del Mcalister Australia
Working in aged care is extremely interesting and rewarding, but it’s also heartbreaking as most of our clients end up dying.
We are in a constant state of grief yet most of us push the sadness aside and muster up the strength to carry on for the sake of the others.
But today I want you to pause for a moment to acknowledge that it is most likely you are carrying a huge amount of grief in your heart.
Unless we mourn the loss of the people we cared for, and process our grief, we can end up with what is called ‘compounded grief’.
Compounded Grief is the term we use for layers of unacknowledged and unresolved grief.
Since many of us are unable to attend funeral services, we need to find our own ways to deal with the losses we experience on a regular basis.
So, what can we do?
Firstly, we need to ensure we do not internalize our sadness. It is something we cannot push under the proverbial carpet, nor can we bury our head in the sand and pretend everything is fine.
Human beings are not designed to internalize emotions, particularly the intense feelings associated with grief. We need to remain in touch with our feelings and then find ways to process them.
We can do this by:
Secondly, we need to find ways to experience comfort. What works for one person, may not work for another so I always encourage my clients to do what works best for them.
Here are some ideas that bereaved people have found comforting:
Thirdly, I believe there needs to be sessions available for staff members to de-brief with one another.
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the American Declaration of Independence once said,
“Who can so softly bind up the wound of another, as he who has felt the same wound himself.”
This is why I am strong proponent of staff supporting each other as they grieve the loss of a resident.
The old saying that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is pertinent to such sessions. These guided support groups would ideally be facilitated by a chaplain or someone with counselling skills.
Lastly, I suggest you discover ways to enjoy some pampering. We nurture ourselves by indulging in things that enhance our wellbeing such as:
If your budget doesn't allow some of these luxuries I suggest enjoying the therapeutic beauty of the outdoors such as leisurely walks along the beach or the forest, or by visiting some lovely gardens.
Watching the sunset is very therapeutic, and doesn't cost a cent.
There is a fable about two trees in a field, one being a willow and the other being an oak. The willow would often comment on the strength of the oak and wished he was as strong as he.
Then one day there was a terrible storm, and the oak fell but the willow remained standing. When asked why, the gardener explained how as the winds blew, the willow was able to bend, while the oak couldn’t adapt to the adverse circumstances, and fell.
Within every human being is an amazing ability to discover resilience in the face of tragedy and sorrow. Resilience is not the suppression of grief, rather it is the strength that enables us to embrace and process it.
Resilience provides the ability to absorb sadness, and then empowers us to discover ways to live with it.
It includes accessing resources, encircling ourselves with people who care and seeking avenues of healing when our hearts ache.