As meaningful as chaplaincy is to me, I’m finding it’s a challenge to know what to do with the emotional build-up.
I have visits with about 20 patients and/or families day; and I find that receiving all that “stuff” collects like the stuff in one’s bathroom drain. Not to put too fine a point on it.
Some visits are more intense than others. But in all the encounters, I’m one of the ones privileged to take in people’s stories and help them deal with their crisis.
Here are some things I do to manage all this receiving (in no particular order): pray; go to therapy once a month, whether I need it or not (yay, therapy!); talk it out with others; worship; cry; socialize; write; rest; exercise; and, when I am not reading material related to chaplaincy, I read un-related subjects of interest (yay, trashy beach novels!)
If anyone has any other suggestions, I’m all ears.
Last week I was floored by two cases, the commonality of which was that I was shocked by premature death. One patient was older than the other. The younger one, who had just gotten news of a grim diagnosis, died within two days from something seemingly unrelated.
In the case of the older patient, he and I had some meaningful discussions and I found myself rooting for him and praying he would pull through. He didn’t.
Sometimes I have in my mind the way I think things will play out, but then sometimes they don’t play out that way. (Yet another reminder I’m not Master of the Universe.)
Still, I find myself missing many of my patients.
Amid this heartache, I think we are put on this earth to help one another through. We weren’t designed to journey alone. This inevitably means we’ll collect some battle scars. Love will do that. The tough place, at least for me, is learning how to engage enough, love enough but then wash it through like emotional Drain-o. Let it go.
For better or worse, there’s no formula.