We are living in a world that is in constant flux. Our pre-pandemic lives are, sadly, a thing of the past. Many people grieve for their old lives and the simplicity in which they once lived. Yes, there were struggles, but they were different, less raw. It is during times of uncertainty that you need someone most. And just like our families and patients who are grappling with the uncertainty and complexity of a terminal illness or loss of a loved one, the struggle is very real.
To help shed light on maintaining positivity during times of uncertainty, we sat down with Hospice of Redmond Chaplain Brian Ely. As a chaplain since 1997, he has worked with many different types of people. From sports teams and hospitals to first responders and hospice, a large portion of his life has been dedicated to helping meet people where they are in life and joining them on their journey as a support guide.
Brian groups grief and stress into four “phases.” They are 1) swamp of despair, 2) forest of tension, 3) meadows of care, and 4) mountains of hope. Depending on the person and where they are in their journey, they may find themselves in one of these four phases. No matter the phase, there are many opportunities where a person needs someone who can just listen.
Swamp of Despair
In Swamp of Despair, a person has a deep need to share their story. They may be feeling all-consuming anxiety but knowing they have someone to talk to can be highly therapeutic. Chaplain Brian calls this stage cathartic ventilation. As a chaplain, he is there to help a person talk through their emotions in a safe and non-judgemental environment.
Forest of Tension
Forest of Tension is a phase where a person questions their life worth and their value. During this phase, a person may dive deeper into their belief systems to help face difficult situations. This is also when people understand the difference between their preferences and their convictions. A person’s preferences can be swayed, but their convictions are non-negotiable. However, sometimes there is disequilibrium in preferences versus convictions, such as when going through hospice. A chaplain’s role is to help a person understand their tension is normal and natural and is healthy and okay.
Meadows of Care
Meadows of Care is a phase where people feel the need to share their personal and spiritual lives, inviting the person listening to their struggle. There is a deep need to have a safe place to share. A chaplains role is to help a person feel that they can let their guard down and receive healing. Healing is more than physical; it can be emotional and spiritual too.
Mountains of Hope
Mountains of Hope is the phase in which a person realizes that life is more than just living, dying, and getting through the day. A chaplain’s role is to help a person grieve with hope. Often when in hospice, people haven’t processed the fact that they can no longer do the things that once brought joy to their lives. A chaplain or loved one can help guide this person through this phase by helping them visualize their memories and encouraging them to share the moments when they felt most at peace.
Wherever you are in your struggle, it is essential to know that everyone has a sense of meaning and purpose – regardless of their beliefs. For some, it is God. For others, it’s animals. What gives a person peace and happiness, and purpose can vary.
“There are people who find meaning in nature, fellowship with other people, music, prayer, or religious services,” said Chaplain Brian. “It is my job to earn the right to be heard by the person in need and help them without an agenda.”
Brian adds, “Often if we come into a situation with an agenda, it takes purpose away from helping the person. Instead, it is about finding the thing that moves the person. Without that purpose, it is easy to give up the fight.”
Maintaining positivity in times of uncertainty requires active listening. The struggle is real, and you are not alone. All of us are all struggling with something. Some people, however, are having a more challenging time managing their feelings than others.
Be a person who can listen without an agenda and help guide them through their emotions and the four phases mentioned above. We are here too if you feel alone and in need of support. Contact us anytime.