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Monday, March 23, 2009

Bereavement Series: The Ministry of Presence Shows You Care

Just your very presence nearby is a way to minister to those who are suffering. It says "I'm here and I care. You're not alone." A hug, squeeze of the hand, and soft eye contact communicates caring and can be soothing.

If you know someone who is bereaved, the Ministry of Presence, just being there, is a way to provide comfort and say "I'm here and I care."

During the end stage of a loved one's life, if you don't know what to do or say, you can keep a vigil by someone's side.

A caring touch, a stroke of the hair, a foot massage or a hand massage can reach through the solitude that can come with illness. It says "You're not alone, I'm here and I care deeply."

Soft eye contact also communicates when words cannot work. Often when someone is in the end stage, visitors unconsciously avoid eye contact, as a way of keeping a distance.

People often simply feel awkward and uncomfortable around someone who is severely ill and who may pass away. They may not realize they are avoiding eye contact, avoiding touch, keeping a distance.

When I was in a nursing program the teachers explained that research showed that people unconsciously avoid that which reminds them of suffering, dying and death. Without realizing it, they make excuses for themselves, avoiding situations that are threatening to them.

They may rationalize and try to justify why they can't be there for someone. But one must not take it as a form of rejection. It is simply because people are uncomfortable around suffering, reminders of death, or dying.

My nursing program teachers explained it is very important to give your eye contact, physical presence, caring touch, and a caring words. One may simply say "I'm here" and give a hand squeeze.

When you are the bereaved person, people may also react with this awkwardness. But words are not needed. Just being there says a lot.

After my husband died in 1996 a friend took me for quiet, scenic drives in the car. Going alone would not have been the same. By providing the Ministry of Presence my friend offered me the soothing comfort of someone who cared. A friend who was being there to listen if a listener was wanted made me feel less isolated by the bereavement.

1 comment:

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