Friday, February 02, 2007

Dear Ken

I came to your site from another blog who was a nurse. I have recently had my dad pass away here at home. We had hospice come to the house and I had never met the chaplain even though he had contacted me a couple times by phone offering help. Now, reading your stories which are so compassionate and so close to home, I wonder if I should have taken the chaplain up on his assistance. I want to thank you for writing of your experiences with those whom you have known. I find them so touching and you give me hope in a world that is too often hopeless. You also give me company and so I know that I am not alone in how grief has affected me. Thank you and the best to you. Joyce H.

I received the above in an email today and it touched me. I wish Joyce had left me a way to reach her. If she reads this, maybe she’ll reconsider.

It touched me for two reasons. First, many people turn down chaplaincy services in hospice care because their experience with ministers is negative or that they have their own pastor. Frankly, most ministers are almost completely untrained in clinical pastoral care. Even those with well-respected graduate degrees only have a smidgen of training in this very difficult specialty. I don’t blame Joyce at all for declining chaplaincy in her time of need but it frustrates those of us who are competent in this work. Most of my peers have a Masters of Divinity, which is a 90-hour graduate degree as opposed to 30 or 60 hours for most masters’ level programs. On top of that they have 2 years of hard work in a residency program for clinical pastoral care. One Chaplain that I work with has all of that plus a Masters in Nursing. She has more education than the M.D.s she works with. I hold a 30 hour Masters of Liberal Arts degree, 1 year of residency and a Doctorate in Pastoral Counseling with 2 years of clinical work in a hospital Psychiatric unit and at a battered women’s shelter. Understanding that while a degree doesn’t make one particularly competent, it does speak to commitment and willingness to learn if nothing else. Some ministers are incredibly talented and do well with death dying but I wish that I could avoid being painted with the same brush as the local preacher who has nothing to say but cliché and tired platitudes.

Second, Joyce is lonely and hurting and I want to help her find healing. I’m pleased that she found this little blog but I can help her with resources if we can just exchange emails. She’s an astute reader when she says, “You also give me company and so I know I’m not alone in how grief has affected me.” She recognizes the grief in my stories. I appreciate that more than I can say because it is my own grief that spawns the stories and it's that familiar ground that seems to have given her hope. It’s hard for us to live without hope. When I sit down to pour my heart out in these entries, I hope that my readers will share the healing with me and therein join me in the work of the Kingdom of God.

Joyce, I hope you continue reading here and that you’ll find peace and healing. Thanks for your note.



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