I place woven butterfly fabric in the center of the table, a pillar candle in the middle and my cracked stone heart off to the side. This is what I call the Sacred Space – the place where we will put pictures of our deceased loved ones or mementos that hold memories.
The employees of this memory care center arrive in this private space, some early for their shift, some taking time out of their busy schedules. We settle onto the comfy upholstered chairs around the oval table where Kleenex packets wait.
This grief group is new to me as a facilitator and new to those who come, but I work to establish a connection finding our common personality traits as I ask these questions:
- How many of you feel like caregiving is in your blood; it is at the core of who you are?
- How many of you would describe yourself as hard-working and serious about your job?
- How many of you develop deep and sometimes long-lasting connections to clients or their families?
- How many of you are not only caregivers at work, but in your families or your communities as well?
- How many of you despite being great caregivers to others, feel like YOU are last on your priority list for self-care?
Shaking my head “yes” to all these questions, they accept me as one of them – knowing that I too, am a “forever-caregiver.” I share a part of my story, how from an early age I care for a chronically ill mother, and how natural it is for me to choose nursing as a profession when I enter college.
I learn their names and I listen to their stories, making notes after the session so that I will remember details when we meet again. I thank each of them for sharing, knowing how difficult that is to do with a stranger.
They reveal their losses of losing clients and their personal challenges – sharing their grief, crying, and giving each other support. One hour later, we leave that private room more OPEN than before.
- Open to a new understanding of each other’s pain.
- Open to looking for the light and the flame of hope that is present even in our grief.
- Open to remembering the gifts those departed leave us.
- Open to finding ways to self-care so that we can continue our important work.
I continue to be amazed by the people I meet as I facilitate support groups and I am honored to care for them as I continue to be a “forever-caregiver.”
Are you a caregiver? What is your story? I would love to hear it!