C.S Lewis once said, "Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.? I came across this quote after having buried a dear family member this past weekend. Have you ever tried to climb to the top of the monkey bars, reach as far as you can, only to be hanging with one hand on one set of bars and the other on the next set? If I let go, I most definitely will fall and because it rained last evening the ground below is looking pretty muddy and murky. But what choice do I have? I?m suspended in air at the moment.
That?s sort of what this grief thing feels like. At times when the gentle breeze blows through my hair, it gives me pleasure but then suddenly I?m surrounded with fear, realizing that I?m just hanging on in between two realities. Did he really just die? How is that possible? We just spoke with him the night before?
Letting go, involves risk. Will we remember the pleasure of climbing the one side of the monkey bars? Will the memories of our loved one remain vivid? Or will we come to a time where they will no longer be necessary? I hear myself say, "I need to let go of one to move onto the next.? Fear then says, "If you let go you will be hanging on only with one hand for a brief second before reaching the new monkey bar, to the other side.
Memories remain memories. That first monkey bar is how I started the journey and will never be forgotten. But I must let go so that new memories can be made. As I let go of the one and shift to the new one, I realize that Someone much stronger than I is actually guiding my hand to the next bar. I need not fear, and I need not worry. God?s incredible hand of mercy guides me to the next. I wonder what adventures we?ll be having?
I hope that in whatever circumstances you find yourselves in, that you too may find the strength and ability to move over to the next phase of your life; the new "normal.? I too look forward to what this means.
By Winnie Visser
Last time I shared about the reality and warning signs of Compassion Fatigue, something commonly experienced by people in helping careers.
If any of this resonated with you, there are some ways to help prevent it. Often Compassion Fatigue is something that creeps up on us. We don?t even really see it until it has already overwhelmed us. The following information comes from Francoise Mathieu, a Certified Mental Health Counsellor and Compassion Fatigue Specialist. Mathieu designed a prevention toolkit to allow you to create some better self-care strategies. Everyone is different so what works for you might not work for someone else.
Here are some questions that will make you more self- aware and get you started:
?What are my warning signs? (On a scale of 1 to 10, what is a 4 for me and what is a 9?)
?How Am I Doing? (Schedule a regular check in, every week.)
?What things do I have control over?
?What things do I not have control over?
?What stress relief strategies do I enjoy? (Taking a bath, a walk, sleeping well or a massage).
Strategies for your workplace:
?Talk about it. By openly discussing and recognizing compassion fatigue at work, employees who serve others can normalise this problem. This will give you and other?s permission to take steps to prevent compassion fatigue.
?Create an encouraging environment. Some helpful things a workplace can offer are: proper debriefing, regular breaks, mental health days, peer support, assessing and changing workloads, improved access to professional development and regular check-in-times where staff can safely discuss the impact of their work on their professional and private lives.
?Where possible break up your work day or work part time. Working part time, only seeing clients or patients part time and doing other activities the rest of the workday can be a very effective method to prevent compassion fatigue.
Strategies for your personal life:
?Improve your self-care. Most caregivers put their needs last and feel guilty for taking extra time off to care for themselves. You can?t pour into others if you are running on empty.
?Find balance. Is there balance between depleting and nourishing activities in your life? Make the time to meditate, exercise, pursue non-work interests and experience personal debriefing.
?Observe your coping mechanisms. How are you coping? Are you able to give out at home or are you too depleted to participate in your home life? Are you relying on alcohol, food or other unhealthy things to de-stress?
For more information about coping with Compassion Fatigue visit: www.cmc-consulting.ca
By Sharon Osvald in Collaboration with Winnie Visser
Principles for Real Living:
I am responsible for my own attitude
My attitude affects my actions
I can not change others, but I can influence others
My emotions do not control my actions
Admitting my imperfections does not mean that I'm a failure
Love is the most powerful weapon for good in the world
Desperate Marriages by Gary Chapman, Northfield Publishing, Chicago 1998, 2008