Christine A. Bruce. Helping Patients, Families, Caregivers, and Physicians, in the Grieving Process. J Am Osteopath Assoc 2007;107(suppl_7):ES33–ES40. doi: .
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Physical experiences of the body and those that are emotional, cognitive, and spiritual are inextricably related. The author, a hospice bereavement coordinator and counselor, discusses how medical professionals can become personally prepared to assist in the often intense and intimate passage of life into death and later through both didactic and personal preparation. She also describes the major models of grief processes and illustrates the power a caring professional can have during the dying process and in the aftermath of a patient's death by relating personal case scenarios.
I couldn't leave her, and no one knew what was wrong except that her heart and lung systems were all messed up. So in my very unprofessional and naive way, I just sat and held her hand. I never left her—I couldn't leave her. Her life was slipping away. She kept saying, `I'm going to die, doctor,' and I kept telling her, `We're going to do everything we can for you, and every time you have any pain or discomfort, you let me know and I'll have the nurses do something about it.'
`Companioning' is about honoring the spirit, being curious, learning from others, walking alongside, being still, listening with the heart, bearing witness to the struggles of others and being present to their pain, respecting disorder and confusion rather than imposing order and logic. Companioning is about going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.
One's own denials and dissociations of death anxiety in relation to oneself, may, in reaction to the grief of others, block empathy or open it up. Our own grief is always there in some way in our every encounter with the grief of others. It may be both an impediment and a means of empathetic connection at the same time, but it is always there. For each of us, as we approach the work of supporting others in their grief and facilitating the mourning process, we approach a place which is spiritually and psychologically very powerful, both healing and dangerous. The caregiver should be prepared with self-awareness and an openness to the vulnerability of self and other and to the great spiritual and psychological wounds that occur in grief.21
It is a paradox of dying that a person can seem to grow strikingly in the realms of spirit and soul as the physical self dramatically shrinks.... The contemplative place of prayer or meditation can provide a place of safety and distance—not from, but within, the experience. This tender vulnerability [of spiritual composure and openness] seems a prerequisite for the deepest tasks of inner development.
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