by Charlene Thurston,RN,ANP,Hospice Director, from the Fall 1998 Hospice Currents Newsletter
Though loss and grief are usually unwanted crises in our lives, they lead us into a process of confronting some of our greatest fears and of seeking answers to some of our deepest questions, as we attempt to gain our balance. The greater the impact of the loss, the greater the impact of grief that we experience. While we expect such experiences to create sadness, anxiety and turmoil, we often do not realize that they can also ultimately lead to deep healing and profound personal growth. The development of compassion toward ourselves and others is often one of the most valuable possible outcomes of having been wounded.

Compassion- “com passion”- “suffering with” brings us alongside of our fellow human beings and moves us to support them in their suffering. Often no more is needed from us than to let them know that we understand, that we care, and that we will allow them to lean on us as they try to work through their own crisis.

Caring about others; offering them unconditional positive regard; listening to them so that they may tell and retell their story in attempting to make sense of what’s happening to them; refraining from giving much advice; honoring their innate wisdom and ability to heal; offering some practical assistance; pulling together other supports and resources if they are desired-these are the strategies that can be most helpful.

Having had a similar experience often makes us particularly sensitive to another’s pain. Remembering what was helpful to us, or what would have helped had we received it, provides us with unique insight. Acting on a natural instinct to help another benefits not only the receiver, but also the helper, by creating some meaningful benefit out of a personal tragedy.

We, unfortunately, will all come to know the pain of grief at some point in our lives. Transforming our pain into blessings that will help us all heal is the opportunity.

Funded by the Palliative & Supportive Care of Nantucket Foundation, the Palliative & Supportive Care Program is operated as a department of the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, which is an affiliate of Massachusetts General Hospital, and a member of Partners HealthCare. Palliative & Supportive Care of Nantucket is a specialized health care program dedicated to providing excellent physical, psychological, social, and spiritual care to persons with life-threatening illness and their families.

A Partnership in Caring

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