Understanding How Perception Informs How People Cope With Illness and Loss

Each of us has a unique set of perceptions, based on our life experience, our upbringing, and many other factors.

Perception is when we understand, comprehend, and judge what one has gained through one’s senses. fb post 11.16.17 cont.

Perceiving is “the process of using the senses to acquire information about the surrounding environment or situation.

The interpersonal communication gap is the difference between the message you intend to communicate and the message that is actually received by another person. The ICG is influenced by the feelings, intentions, attitudes, and thoughts of both the speaker and the listener.

Narrowing the Interpersonal Communication Gap (ICG)

There are three primary communication modes used by people to transmit information from inside themselves to the external world.

  1. Words
  2. Tone of Voice
  3. Body Language

When receivers hear and see the speaker’s communication, they must decode that message and figure out its meaning.

Major ICG  occurs when the listener infers something different from what the speaker intends.

It is possible to decode different messages from the same encoded message.

Words do not mean the same thing to everyone.  (The same is true for tone of voice & body language. Connotations vary from individual to individual, and also from culture to culture.)

Awareness of the ICG allows:

  • More effective use of lag time. (We listen at a faster rate than we speak; lag time is the difference between the two rates.)
  • Reduction of errors in communication
  • A means of testing our perceptions for accuracy
  • Fewer errors in messages sent. We never reach perfection.

Recognizing The Importance Of Validation As A Tool For Spiritual Healing

validationValidating Emotions:

  • Painful feelings that are expressed, acknowledged, and validated by a trusted listener will diminish.
  • Painful feelings that are ignored will gain strength.

Basic Concepts of Validation

  • Acknowledging the other person’s feelings
  • Identifying the feelings
  • Offering to listen
  • Helping them label the feelings
  • Being there for them
  • Remaining present physically and emotionally
  • Being patient
  • Being accepting and non-judgemental

This is simpler than we think!

We have found that if one just validates another, the other will usually be able to work out their own emotional problems even faster than if we were to give them our advice.

In summary the pastoral caregiver is present to help a patient and caregiver experience as fully as possible the love God has for them. Pain is often present in a patient’s room. We cannot fix pain. Emotions are always present. We can validate their emotions. We enter the room knowing we cannot fix those who are present; in fact, the pastoral caregiver should not even try. But we can love them. Loving them means “”hearing” them, that is, acknowledging their concerns and feelings as authentic. Loving them, depending upon circumstances, often means touching them; loving them often means praying with or for them. The purpose of the chart is to illustrate some of the ways a pastoral caregiver can bring the love of God to patients and their loved ones into the room.

To learn more register to our workshop below. A 15-hour intensive workshop designed to equip beginning pastoral caregivers with basic skills and concepts that will enable them to provide competent spiritual support to patients and families dealing with serious illness and loss.

Ministry In Times of illness and lossREGISTER HERE



Central Texas – Ministry in Times of Illness and Loss, Part 1 – May, 2017

Tom Nuckels our facilitator of this event and his assistant Valerie Crim snapped some pics of their training session learning together, role playing, and a group shot. It is an amazing workshop with a lot to learn and also a lot of fun. Big thank you to the registrants of this workshop.

“Ministry in Times of Illness and Loss” is a two-part training course for spiritual caregivers. Intended primarily to train Lifeline Chaplaincy’s pastoral care volunteers, the course is open to all persons who have an interest in developing spiritual care skills. Men and women involved in ministry, church leadership, and helping professions such as medicine, nursing, counseling, and social work have found this training to be highly valuable in both their professional practice and their personal lives.

Part 1

(formerly called “Creating a Healing Community”), is a 15-hour intensive workshop designed to equip beginning pastoral caregivers with basic skills and concepts that will enable them to provide competent spiritual support to patients and families dealing with serious illness and loss. Registration fee: $50.00, payable at the door. Scholarships are available if needed.

Topics include:

Loss and Crisis

From Casual Visit to Spiritual Encounter

Emotions 101

Perceptions and the Interpersonal Gap

Basic Listening Strategies and Communication Skills

Story Listening

“Why Me?”

Grief and Grieving

Self-care for the Pastoral Caregiver

Effective Hospital Ministry




Understanding Emotions

Degrees of Emotions

Behavior is driven by emotions. Emotions are driven by thoughts. Thoughts are underpinned by beliefs, and the human mind can believe anything!


How Emotional States Play Out in Life

The tables demonstrate how various situations produce emotions that in turn cause behavior. The search for the emotion or feeling behind the behavior (and hleping the patient or other recongnize thier own feelings) is one of the pastoral caregiver’s primary tasks.

Slide 2

Expressing your feelings can be demonstrated directly or indirectly through various behavior; commands, questions, accusations, name calling, and sarcasm. For example: Using a command – Directly: “I hurt too much to hear anymore.” or Indirectly: “Shut up!”

Understanding the concept of “Emotional Intelligence”

Defined in 5 dimensions:

  • Knowing one’s own emotions (self-awareness)
  • Managing one’s emotions
  • Motivating oneself
  • Recognizing emotions in others (othe-awereness)
  • Handling relationships

A primary goal for he pastoral caregiver is to help the patient and family acknowledge and understand their emotions.

Register HereCTx Registration

You’re a Star

by McKayla Dawn Rosen

“Are you confident?”

As I was exiting a hospital unit, I heard a nurse utter these words… I have no idea the context, but in that moment, I was tempted to audibly answer the question that hadn’t been meant for me. Overwhelmingly, I felt like shouting back, “Yes.”

Had I been unintentionally posed this question earlier this summer, my answer would have been quite the opposite. Why? Resilience. This summer, I’ve been expanded.

I began the summer literally and metaphorically overwhelmed with the baby hairs and frizzies on my head. I was to dress business casually each day, meaning I shouldn’t permit my hair its traditional unruliness. So I fought to pin down the baby hairs and smooth over the frizzies to force my hair into submission. I’ve spent a lot of time this summer feeling like so much of who I am and what I look like clashes brutally with the sterile hospital environment.

I’m trying to improve my drawing skills (I want to create a comic book of sorts soon), so I follow a few illustrators on Instagram. I saw a cute drawing that exemplified resilience with drawings of bodies of water (and I love bodies of water). There are 3 pools that grow larger as they proceed down the page with the words, “I swam across this,” written beneath each of them. Then, beneath all of them, is a larger body of water, like a lake, with the words, “I can swim across this,” written beneath it.

It’s taken me a while, but I think I’m finally realizing that I’m a star, we all are— and we’re meant to shine.

The best band in the world, Brand New, has a lyric that goes, “So I’m asking you to shine it on and stick around.”

In Confessions St. Augustine writes, “Grant my prayer, O Lord, and do not allow my soul to wilt under the discipline which you prescribe. Let me not tire of thanking you for your mercy in rescuing me from all my wicked ways, so that you may be sweeter to me than all the joys which used to tempt me; so that I may love you most intensely and clasp your hand with all the power of my devotion; so that you may save me from all temptation until the end of my days.”

It seems to me that St. Augustine and Brand New are urging the same thing. And it seems that this summer, I learned the merit of each’s words.

There’s this belief that keeps entering into my being during times when I start to self-deprecate… it’s this belief that I can. I can go talk to that person (whatever the context may be). They are worthy of my time, but I’m also worthy of theirs. Instead of waiting out the perfect conditions, instead of waiting until I feel good and ready enough, I should act. Maybe in order for those conditions to be perfect, I just have to go and start creating.

At the beginning of the summer, I couldn’t get out of the hospital faster. Now, I find myself staying late. I open each patient’s door to join in with what I believe God has already been doing in there, but I see now that God has a very specific role for me in that, should I choose to accept. I’ve learned that nothing I do or don’t do can thwart God’s plans and acts of reconciliation for the world. I have also learned that guilt is not a credible guide and have started refusing it power over me. Should I allow laziness or fear to keep me from saying or doing what I feel I need to, I believe God will appoint someone else to deliver what is needed. But how much more wonderful is it to RSVP on time to the party God has invited you to?

I’ve had the sweet privilege of serving as Chick-fil-A’s cow mascot this summer. I’ve been a mascot in different contexts for the past 8 years (hahaha). It’s something I love, feel called to and feel I’m good at. I see mascotting as an art and as ministry— as a way to spread joy and love to people, helping them recognize beauty. This week as the cow, I approached a customer who almost immediately started laughing receptively and welcomingly. I turned up the funny and even picked up her fork and fed her a bite of the mac & cheese resting on her tray. She started laughing even more vibrantly. She said through smiles, “You must have known I had a bad day! I was sitting here about to start crying and then you came over. You just made my day, cow, thank you.”

Similarly, this week a patient I visited said to me, “I thank you so much for coming! I am grateful for our conversation; this made my day.” It seems that what I do as the mascot (something I’ve been so comfortable with for years) is not so different from what I have been doing as a hospital chaplain (something I’ve been quite uncomfortable with for most of the summer). I went through so many days this summer thinking there was no way I could be good at being a hospital chaplain.

I’m amazed and pleased to say that I can. When God calls and empowers you to do something, you can. I can’t wait to see what I learn I can do next.

The baby hairs from the beginning of the summer have grown out now. I still have some other baby hairs springing up, and I certainly have some frizzies, but I’m far better at managing them now.

Little Did I Know

A Short Story based on a True Story by Tori Treat


As I stuff this pillow, I begin to pray. I wonder where this pillow will go? Who will receive it? As I sew the last stitch, I cannot help but think that God will use this pillow for a greater purpose than I could even imagine. I put the pillow in a bag with the rest, trusting that it will fall into the right hands.

Little did I know, one of my pillows went to a young man dying of cancer. Through his tear stained eyes, he clutched his new pillow as a token of hope in his hopeless situation. Another one of my pillows went to a cynical homeless woman suffering from severe back pain. As she placed her new pillow under her back, the relief it brought her made her smile for the first time in a while. She cherished her new little pillow for it was now one of her only possessions. Yet another pillow went to an elderly woman who was only alive because of the machine pumping air into her lungs. Unconscious and unaware, the small pillow was placed under her hand. Though she cannot see or understand what is happening, this pillow makes her cold, hard bed a little bit softer.

Another week passes and it’s time to go back to sew more pillows. As I pack my supplies into my car, I suddenly feel a sharp pain in my chest. The pain becomes stronger, and I become weaker. My husband comes running, and everything goes dark.

As I slowly open my eyes, I see this white ceiling of my new hospital room. The doctor explains what a heart attack is, but I cannot even comprehend what he is saying. All I could think about is why? Why me? How? How can I survive this? How will I pay for this? Is this what I deserve? Am I going to live?

The doctor leaves and I lay agonizing in my bed. My health, my future, my life; It all changed in an instant. I hear a tap on the door. A young woman asked if she could visit. She was so beautiful that I swore she was an angel. I told her of my pain and struggles, and she just listened. She did not try to advise me, or inform me, but with each nod of her head, my emotions lifted lighter. She prayed for me, pleading to God on my behalf. As I opened my eyes, she reached into her bag. She pulled out a small little pillow. She told me that kind people from the local churches made these pillows and prayed over them. I began weeping and hugged the pillow tight to my chest.

Little did she know, I made this pillow last week and prayed for whoever would receive it. How could I have known that I would be praying for myself?

After she left, I laid peacefully in my bed. My room did not seem as cold anymore. Though my situation was still dreadful, heavy, and pressing, it did not intimidate me anymore. Holding tight to my new little pillow, I remember that God is right here by my side, sending me exactly what I need right when I need it.

Effective Personal Coping Resources During A Medical Crisis

Each of us is responsible for developing the innate characteristics that have been provided by our Creator.  Some areas that may be most useful to focus on are listed below.

  1. Spirituality.  The development of our spiritual dimension is unquestionably the single greatest determinant of pastoral effectiveness.  As one deeply spiritual chaplain has said, “I want everything I come in contact with to be affected by the presence of God in my life.”  This statement lies at the core of the pastoral relationship, especially when interacting with those in crisis and loss.
  2. Religion.  How we connect our spiritual dimension to our religious tradition is another key component of effective coping with the crises that come our way.  Religious practices and community can be sustaining during these times.
  3. Family.  Those who have the blessing of a strong nuclear and extended family will be able to draw on these bonds during times of disruption.
  4. Personal Foundation.  One recognized school (Coach University) that trains personal coaches emphasizes the need to develop (in advance) a strong personal foundation.  “One can go further with greater ease if one first takes the time to build a strong personal foundation.”  In coaching language a personal foundation includes the following.
  5. Life experience.  There is no substitute for having experienced the realities of life’s ups and downs.  The more one has experienced in the past, the more one can trust that the current situation will work itself out.  Trust generates peace.  In Christian terms, if we know God has been with us in the past we can more easily trust that He will be with us in the present and in the future.  Philip Yancey has said, “Faith is believing in advance that which will only make sense in reverse.”