Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Minding the path to self-care

Photo by grassrootsmsw

"We, in this work, are somehow missing an outer layer of skin
and must take care to renew ourselves."
Dame Cicely Saunders

Being present at the bedside of the dying and attending to the needs of their loved ones is life altering work. It requires giving and sharing at the most intimate and vulnerable levels. How do we as caregivers continue to face the pain of loss on a daily basis and not succumb to 'burnout' or 'compassion fatigue?' How do we tend to our own self-care?

Recently, I have felt the cumulative effects of loss based on the many complicated patients and families I have shared with. While bringing compassion, empathy, and presence to the bedside, I also need to find some in reserve for myself.

What has helped me over the last few weeks is my incredible interdisciplinary team members, collegues, and mentors. Speaking aloud and acknowledging the heaviness of grief with those I respect, seems a communal form of healing. There is an unspoken understanding between and amongst those of us who do this work. We are able to acknowledge suffering and woundedness, yet also believe in the healing and compassion that can emerge from that. We are also understanding of the need to step away from the work and encourage one another to take the spaces needed to replenish.

We all need daily reminders to honor the internal compass that may tell us to take that walk on the beach, garden, meditate, or more importantly, just play! Play without reserve or a focused intention. We need to keep a healthy balance between work and home...find creative and life fulfilling activities that complete the other parts within us. Sometimes, life should just be fun...let's dive in.

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