By admin


Categories: celebrant musings

Hospice Training Exercise

I have been attending training for volunteer work at Hospice of the Valley.  The 24-hour educational time is very well organized, informative, and uses best practices for adult ed.

One exercise provoked much emotion in me.  We took a pad of notes and first wrote on five sheets one-word values important to us.  Then we did the same with beloved activities and next possessions.  Finally we wrote the names of five people we dearly love.  Then the lights dimmed, soft music played, and a narrative ensued about finding a lump, having it diagnosed, watching it grow, going through treatment, and so forth.  Periodically we were asked to crumple and discard 1, 2, or 3 of the notes.  With only five left, someone moved behind us and took one without our permission.  At the end we had only two pieces of paper left from the twenty with which we began.

The exercise, of course, was about loss.

People with terminal diagnoses are losing everything, one loss at a time.  It could be argued that in such situations we can hold on to such things as our dignity or self-worth, but thinking realistically, you see how even these could diminish along with freedoms we take for granted. 

Victor Frankl wisely taught us that our responses remain our own in the face of overwhelming imprisonment of many kinds.  With this one exception, everything else can indeed be lost.

When we finished the exercise, I was aware in a new way of the emotion-filled journey accompanying our final transition, death.  I also had reflected on what is most important to me.  I had felt the unfairness of someone taking something away that I prized.  And I have new empathy for people facing end-of-life.

Hopefully this exercise will enable me to be a better hospice volunteer.  Try it for yourself.