There was a resident not too long ago that passed away without saying goodbye to me. One morning I arrived to her bedroom to find her no more; a sudden departure that I wasn’t expecting. My heart grieved. Days prior we had joked and talked about life, a prayer of blessing and a “see you later”; and now she was gone. I sincerely missed her, and the many conversations we had. I realized at that point how close I had gotten to her. This wasn’t the first time I felt the void of someone I ministered to, and indeed it wasn’t going to be the last time either.
I visit almost all the residents at the nursing home. When I introduce myself to them, I not only let them know of the role I have within the institution as the chaplain, but I also let them know about the family man that I am, and about my life in general. Reciprocally I learn about their lives, family, children, friends, community, what they like, where they come from, what they used to do… etc. Within a few visits they have become part of my life, and for many I have become part of their life as well. I get to know their family members and get to see the bond of love each one has. All of this is important to me to bring spiritual and eternal value to our beloved residents and their families. Inevitably one begins to selflessly love the residents for who they are, and hence feel affected when they suffer.
So, to all of the sudden come to an empty bed where for a few months or years there was the welcoming smile of a loved resident is sad and heart breaking. But it is real, and it is part of life.
I have conversed with nurses, PSWs (Personal Support Worker) and those working closely to the residents, and alike it is challenging the passing of one of the residents that we have become close to. We all go through these challenges. Grief sets in and can be distracting for us, not only as we do our work but also in the wholeness of our life.
Grief is real and unstoppable but thankfully there are ways to cope with the burden of a resident’s departure. It is recommendable that we express the pain. We all have different ways to deal with it, and that is okay. It is good that we know well how our emotions work so we can subordinate them. However it is also important to share the pain with one’s community, among our peers; and create an environment of trust where we can share the emotions surrounding the loss of a resident. This helps to bring closure to our soul and be able to continue to serve all the residents in our care. Nursing homes need to create such an environment once a month where we can freely and openly express our grief.
Working in a Nursing Home, I am reminded of how fragile life is, but also how important it is to enjoy family, friends, and coworkers and people in general, because this is life. May the Lord bless the work of your hands and the care you bring to the residents!
by Rev. Ludwing