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In the darkest times, spiritual caregivers are there

Asante chaplains and spiritual caregivers are available for patients, families and employees.

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Times are stressful. Patients are sicker than ever. Loved ones are distraught. Employees are anxious and tired. Uncertainty hangs in the air.

Those of us in spiritual care hear these narratives and it is like carrying a bowl containing holy, sacred stories. We hold them with care as we go throughout our day. We hold them with respect and honor and care, because these are important stories from staff, patients and families.

As Spiritual Care Week approaches Oct. 24–30, it is an opportune time to share how our chaplains and spiritual caregivers can support our patients, staff and by extension our community.

As chaplains, we serve the spiritual needs of patients, staff and our community. Our primary objective, however, is to offer emotional care. Sometimes that includes spirituality; often it does not. The importance lies in honoring the sacredness and dignity of every person, regardless of their faith tradition or spiritual beliefs.

We are told that to be vulnerable is a sign of weakness. Do not buy the lie. By allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, by allowing someone else in, we bring the inner darkness into the light. And when we can do that, the darkness loses its power.

As spiritual caregivers, we don’t define spirituality for anyone. We comfort, clarify and confront. The three “Cs” are used to determine the level of spiritual distress present in a patient’s narrative. When we walk into a room, we know nothing of their experience, of their background. For us, what is important is the conversation. They may tell us about their faith tradition or that they don’t have one. This is about patient spirituality. That is what we are interested in exploring, finding out what’s going on with them and how to engage in the conversation.

When we speak of spirituality, we do not mean to suggest this is solely about religious belief, though for many it is grounded there. Rather, we look broadly to the values, hopes, dreams, concerns and fears that collectively accompany an individual on a care journey. It is for this reason we believe in all we have seen. And as much data have begun to show, spirituality is key to experience excellence with patient and staff.

We meet with families of people who are facing end of life. We ask, “What can we do to be supportive here?” Sometimes we help people fill out advance directives, call outside clergy or notify other family members of the situation. We cover a lot of territory.

If they ask, we will offer prayer. We provide resources if a need is expressed. Anything from sacred texts to playing cards. Whatever we can do to support their experience. We don’t have a religious agenda for them. We see people from all different faith traditions or no faith tradition. We don’t guide the conversation. It’s up to them to tell us what they’re looking for in the way of support.

Asante has both staff and volunteer chaplains available to anyone who enters our health care setting. Know that we are available to anyone in need. In these times, fear, anxiety, trauma and stress are prevalent. Brené Brown suggests that the antidote to these things is vulnerability. It is a hard thing.

We are told that to be vulnerable is a sign of weakness. Do not buy the lie. By allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, by allowing someone else in, we bring the inner darkness into the light. And when we can do that, the darkness loses its power.

Chaplains and spiritual caregivers are a safe place. We are professional secret-keepers.

Please engage and lean in. Reject the darkness of isolation and live in the light. Taking the path less traveled by exploring your spirituality can lead to a clearer life purpose, better personal relationships and enhanced stress-management skills.

To reach a chaplain, call (541) 789-3780 in Jackson County and (541) 472-7234 in Josephine County.

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