We react to crisis situations with all of our being. Crises impact our emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical dimensions. Physically, we may experience the “fight or flight” response, begin to feel ill, sweat, etc. Emotionally, it is not unusual to experience the whole range of emotions from anger to fear and anxiety. Mentally, there may be a period of depression, disorientation, varying levels of irritation, etc. Spiritually, we may be challenged to question the goodness or presence of God. We groan, “Why me?”
People suffering loss or crisis find themselves existing between an “old normal” and a “new normal,” the middle ground between what was and what can be.
The following are examples of what a caregiver (family, minister, friend, the one-on-the-scene) can do to provide an effective pastoral response to someone experiencing a crisis.
- Be there! To suit up and show up is often 90% of the job.
- If needed, act to insure the safety of the individual and situation.
- Employ these key skills:
- Remain aware of the situation and its impact on those involved.
- Provide a calm, non-anxious presence.
- Stay in rapport with the one in crisis.
- Listen, using the entire range of basic and advanced listening skills.
4. Follow up as the process of crisis and grief plays out. (Telephone calls, cards, have coffee at key intervals.)
It has been said that one can go no deeper into another’s pain than he or she has gone into his or her own. Because of this it is critical that the potential caregiver know themselves.
By Madisen Sallaz Lifeline Houston Summer Intern
Something I get asked daily by family, friends and even strangers is, “is your job fun?” My job is not “fun.” My work is with the sick and dying, and let me tell you that there is nothing fun about that. I talk to people who feel hopeless and lost. I work with those who can not even remember a day without pain. I console grieving mothers who have lost babies that they shouldn’t of. I work with people who have been abused or hurt, by people they thought they loved and that they thought loved them. My work is with people born into a death sentence, like AIDS, knowing that the only way to escape the pain is often death, which also usually comes too young. My job is not “ fun.”
However, I love my job. My patients bring me hope. My work allows me to see miracles I never thought could happen. My job lets me see the sick and dying recover. My job brings healing. My work brings me hope. My work allows me to see hope and light in the dimmest and darkest situations. My job allows me to see love, a love someone has for a child that they had never even met. My job allows me to see strength, a supernatural strength like no other. A strength that inspires even the worst forecasts to seem like bright and sunny days. I get to see joy in my work. Joy despite any situation or pain, joy that surpasses every earthly thing.
My job is unique. It allows me to see so many different types of people and in so many different situations, situations that seem hopeless. But everyday, my patients show me hope and life. They show me that in even just a simple prayer or conversation, transformation can happen and real healing can begin. My job is not easy, it is hard, heart wrenching and sometimes downright impossible. It has made me clutch my steering wheel harder and harder everyday. It has me look in the mirror at my tear stained face wondering why God allows such pain. However, my job has revealed to me more about God and the love of Christ more than a class, sermon or book ever could. My work has inspired me to love and love hard. It has inspired to me to be intentional and hopeful. My job isn’t “fun” but I love it.
Reflection by Tori Treat, 2017 Tarrant County intern.
I am not God. I cannot heal your diagnosis. I cannot speed up your recovery. I cannot change your age old family dynamics. I cannot even understand them. I cannot make your nurse be nice. I cannot make the doctor be more gentle. I cannot lift your financial burdens. I cannot take away the pain of your childhood. I cannot make your pain stop. I
cannot make your parents love each other. I cannot make your siblings visit. I cannot make your wife speak kinder. I cannot make your husband stay. I cannot take away your confusion. I cannot rescue you from your guilt. I cannot take away the pain in your heart.
With God, all of these things are possible. But in case you haven’t noticed, I am not God.
But I am human. I am capable of compassion. I can greet you with a smile. I can ask you what’s going on. I can sympathize. I can validate your feelings. By validating your feelings, I tell you that I hear you and I care, and that you are justified to feel the way you do. I can connect with you. I can be a vessel sending you to God, who can heal in ways that neither of us can understand. And even when I leave the room, He will not. God has been with you before me and He will be with you after me. Because it’s not about me, and what I can and cannot do. It is, and has always been about God.
First Summer reflection from Kate Herring – Abilene Christian University student
I have some new shoes, a new outfit, a new bow, new teachers, new classmates, new schedule, new normal. The first day of school no matter what year of school it is always a frightening time, but that was the least of my worries. The first day of fifth grade was spent clinging on to the hope that my uncle would wake up. My little mind sits silently in the waiting room of the ICU because I am too young to go back and see him. I pray and plead with God for Him not to take my uncle away. I sing and promise that if God does this for me I will spend the rest of my life serving him and doing the work of the Lord. I am only 10 years old and my uncle is the one that tells me I am beautiful, makes me laugh with his silly jokes, and is a father figure to my cousins who needs one. My little family needs him. The nurse gave clearance for us to go back to his room clinging to the hands of my loved ones we sang “it is well” as a family around his bed. But, it was not well with my soul. I need him. My family needs him. But, a couple moments later God took him from me. When my mom told me he passed, I did not cry nor let out a scream. I just stood in disbelief. My precious Uncle left this earth and now is with Jesus, probably singing off key. I don’t understand this, and I don’t know what to think. My ten year old brain is going insane. He is gone. His body is dead. We won’t see him on earth, but we will see him again. It wasn’t until eight years later, I came to terms with my uncle’s death.
I never thought about God weeping. I never thought about how He comes and hurts alongside of us. In John 11:35, Jesus’ friend has passed and “He wept.” Jesus came and broke down just like I did when my uncle passed. But earlier in the passage in John 11: 25-26, Jesus is comforting his friend’s (Lazarus) sister and he makes a promise, Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
As I read this, the song ‘It is Well’ popped into my head and the memory of my uncle. Form this learned: it is okay to weep, it is okay to mourn, but it is not okay to forget the promise. Jesus resurrected my uncle from his sins, so death is not the end of his life… but maybe just the beginning. Jesus has resurrected me from my sins, so that I may live after death and one day see my uncle again.
Until then, I am stuck in a broken world that can foster pain. In this pain it is okay to weep, it is okay to grieve, because this world is only the beginning and it is not my home. So with a longing in my heart to see him again, I patiently wait on this earth clinging on to the promise that Jesus is the resurrection and life… So, death where is your sting?
Listen to this 30 minute Pod Cast: Self-care for caregivers featuring licensed counselor Jennifer Christian interviewing Dr. Virgil Fry.
This thank you note and photo was sent from Paul Figel one of our 2015 interns to David Martin our Spiritual Care Director – Tarrant County. We are so proud of Paul and all he is accomplishing in His name. As you read this note, you’ll hear the impact that the Lifeline Chaplaincy internship continues to have on him.
Thank you so much for your contribution to our medical mission trip through your donation as well as your prayers. God did amazing things thru us as we made ourselves available to Him. We strive to bring quality holistic care to the poorest of Honduras, not focusing on the number of patients but instead on allowing the Spirit to lead each visit and conversation. God came through and allowed us to do more than I ever could’ve imagined! [Eph 3:20 – Now to Him who is able to do infinitely more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us]
We were able to reach, treat, and pray either over 1000 patients, all of whom will continue to be served and encouraged by fellow believers living in Honduras long term through Sparrow Missions. I gained great medical experience interviewing, examining patients and collaborating with Physicians on diagnosis and treatment plans.
More importantly, the spirit showed me several valuable experiences and lessons to take away form the trip. I learned that though medicine is a wonderful service, it has an end as there’s only so much you can do and its healing is temporary. The relationships, trust and conversations however provide opportunity for the spirit to work through believers, bearing fruit that will never perish. I pray to keep an eternal focus throughout my journey and to trust God rather than myself or medicine. [Psalm 20:7 – Some Boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.]
Thank you David!
Photo (Paul Figel – 2015 Lifeline Chaplaincy intern and patient from Honduras
All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. 2 Corinthians 1:3 (The Message)
Earlier in my career, I served almost a decade as a chaplain in the United States Navy. During those years, I spent a lot of time aboard warships at sea, supporting the sailors and Marines who form the backbone of our sea services.
One of the indelible images that remains with me from my years at sea is that of an operation known as underway replenishment (or, in Navy jargon, UNREP). When a Navy ship needs more fuel, food, or other supplies, it doesn’t always have the luxury of pulling into the nearest port like you or I would pull our cars into the nearest gas station or convenience store. It has to be able to get what it needs through underway replenishment. During an UNREP, the ship comes alongside a support ship, hoses and lines are strung between the two ships (which, by the way, are moving), and the support ship provides whatever is needed. It’s thrilling, and a little scary, being aboard a ship during an UNREP. The ships are close together, and the operation tests the nerve and ship-handling skills of both crews, but the result is worth the effort.
“Coming alongside” is an apt image for the spiritual care Lifeline’s volunteers provide to the patients and families we serve. In underway replenishment, each ship is fully seaworthy and has its own captain and crew. The supply ship doesn’t take over the mission of the other ship. It simply comes alongside and provides the support that is needed. Similarly, in pastoral encounters with patients and family members, our volunteers come alongside, not to fix or to take over, but to listen, to pray, and to engage in caring conversation. By doing these things – and even more importantly by simply being there – our volunteers offer reassurance of God’s steadfast love and abiding presence. This is the unique contribution spiritual care makes to patients’ healing and wholeness.