Updated: Feb 15, 2020
This work is hard. In one day I could see one patient who is actively dying and have to tell the family there are only hours to days left, then I go to see another patient who's pain is 10/10 and I struggle with relieving him but do whatever I can until I do, and then I can walk into a home minutes before a patient takes his last breath and I need to let this family know that all they have is right this second to come to the bedside and say their final goodbyes and I watch as his breaths slow and the family realizes that "this is it" and he passes away. And no matter how prepared they are, that last breath is a shock and their pain is real. I go straight into the role of providing comfort and support to those at the bedside. I give them all of me. And by the end of that day... I am exhausted; emotionally and physically exhausted. And the next day, I do it all over again. Because that is how it's done in Hospice.
Rarely does anyone ask me how my day is, because they are afraid I am really going to tell them. My days are difficult. I cry A LOT. And yet I still find the strength to move forward and give just as much to the family I see next, as the one I just left. Because I love what I do. I absolutely 100% love my job. I love doing Hospice work.
But!! If we do not take care of ourselves we will burn out and we will not be able to give what we give. We absolutely must take care of ourselves. For me it is finding someone to talk to, whether it is someone I work with or random strangers on a Hospice FB page. But I need to talk about it. Writing about it helps me as well. Writing "Soft Landing" was such an incredible form of therapy for me, that when I published it and was done, I felt a sense of loss. So I started on my next book, which is turning out to be really lovely. I also paint, and I take walks, lots of walks. The other thing I have done, is I have created a "grief bowl" which was given to me by a wonderful Shaman named Linda Fitch. In this bowl I place two rose quartz hearts and when I have had a tough day, I hold onto those hearts and I think about the patient I was with, the people who love them, the work I did and I let it go and sometimes I sit and cry. And then I place the hearts in the bowl until the next time... and there are a lot of "next times". That grief bowl, helps me. I suggest you find a ritual that is yours specifically, something sacred and special that heals you within.
But whatever you do, however you find your peace, take care of you always. You do not do this job alone, there is a team of people in hospice that are there for you as well as the patient and family, you just have to go to them. It is okay to admit that you struggle with all the loss and all the death and all the ache and pain you see every single day.
You are a lovely human for what you do... hold that in your heart. Know that you do beautiful work. But please, don't forget to take care of you!!! xoxox