I was asked to say a few words to a graduating class of end of life doulas. I thought about what to say for quite a while. What could I give them that hadn’t already been given in their course? What would I have wanted someone to say to me when I started out in this end of life arena?
After I wrote what I wanted to share I thought, “I want to share this with all those who work in end of life!” It isn’t just when we begin our journey of working with end of life that words of encouragement and direction can be of guidance. These thoughts apply to us anywhere on the path, the beginning, after years and even as we are about to end our career. These words apply to hospice workers and volunteers, Stephens Ministers, parish nurses, all EOL workers ———
To all those who work or volunteer with end of life:
The greatest gift you have to give is time. It won’t be the words you say, even the guidance you give, although that is all very important. It will be the time you spend or don’t spend, your presence, that will be remembered.
Your presence literally takes away the “ghosts of fear” most of us bring to the bedside of someone who is dying. The “I’m not alone no matter what happens, someone who knows is with me” is what we bring. Our knowledge, our manner, our expressions, our words are important but our time is our most valuable tool.
Those who work with end of life are on a fantastic journey. It can be a scary journey. There will be times you feel insecure in your knowledge and your abilities. Times when there will be no words to say, no comfort to give but you will be there. Be there to guide all present into a sacred experience. You will be the conductor of their life’s song. By your guidance that song will become their sacred memory.
That is no small job!!
I’ll just add, I am here for you. As you begin this adventure, know that you can email me personally firstname.lastname@example.org
Something More about... TO THOSE WHO WORK IN END OF LIFE
Having copies of Knowledge Reduces Fear and Knowledge Reduces Fear Vol. 2 can be very helpful for explaining to families many of the less common occurrences during the dying process.
Dear Barbara, I know this isn’t part of your stated mission but given that it is a future concern for medical professionals and patients and their families, could you share your response to MAID (Medical Aid in Dying – Canada) and Death with Dignity – US laws as they might impact Hospice and other End of life care which might be customized for those choosing this route. The patient still needs caring assistance from knowledgeable professionals as their chosen departure date draws closer.br>———
BK Books replied:
Hi Traci, I think everyone is going to be afraid to some degree when it comes time to die. We are facing the unknown and that is scary. Being told we can’t be fixed makes approaching death real and most of us are more afraid of dying than of being dead. That’s what I think gets a person to wanting Death With Dignity. My thoughts: supportive counseling is the key. Exploring the fear that leads to the decision. Educate as to how death approaches normally without intervention and how it will approach with assistance. It is interesting that many who are approved for the process then do not use it. Having the control (if needed) can be more comforting than actually doing it. On another note the cost of the prescribed drugs are exorbitant and therefore limits the choice to a few which is disconcerting to me. Traci, thank you for asking. Blessings! Barbara
Dearest Barbara, my fellow “midwife to the afterlife”:
I am in tears over here. Much has been written about “love languages”, and long ago I figured out mine were (to give AND receive), 1. Quality time, and 2. Physical touch. Can’t get anymore “hospice nurse” than THAT.
As a night shift (5P-8:30AM) on-call hospice nurse four nights per week, I don’t have my “own” patients like our RNCM’s, but I DO get to see everyone’s! I do a LOT of admissions as well, and do a LOT of EOL education. One of the favorite parts of my work (it could NEVER be “just a job”!) is to receive a patient at home, settle them in, and then watch the fear drain out of my families’ eyes as I go through my EOL education and they realize that yes, they CAN do this, they DO have support, and we WILL walk through this journey WITH them.
Our families truly ARE our rockstars. I tell them that every day.
BK Books replied:
Hi Yaffa, what you wrote is so beautiful and explains our end of life work, from admission to the moment of death and into bereavement. Being an on call, night hospice nurse gives you the opportunity to be with the family as loved ones leave this world. So many die around 3 or 4 in the morning. That is when we are the “conductor” guiding the family in those last moments of saying goodbye. Such special work. Blessings to you! Barbara
Barbara, Thank you so much for taking the time to write such thoughtful words and to share them with the larger end of life community. I have been a hospice nurse a little over a year and it seems so much of the time I feel I have little to offer besides my presence. How reassuring to know that is not only enough, it is so important. Thank you for your support and encouragement! God bless you!
I am the volunteer for my friend and neighbor that has ALS. This is very scary to her and I feel helpless. Faye loves Jesus so we know where she will be spending eternity. Thank you so much for your guidance on the computer. Blessings.
BK Books replied:
Hi Nan, your friend is lucky to have you helping and you are lucky to have someone to help. We all need each other in this world. My blessings to you both. Barbara
Barbara, you are such a gift. Thank you for your words of wisdom, for the books you’ve written, and for continuing to educate and support end of life workers.
BK Books replied:
Hi Sandra, thank you for the kind words. Blessings! Barbara
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