23 Aug Blessed be the Torchbearer
Dear Vitality Man,
I am a 20 year-old college student and volunteer quite a bit at a local AIDS hospice. I find the work deeply rewarding and love the friendships I have developed with the patients and other volunteers there. Even though the pace is very low key and peaceful (which I enjoy, given the contrast to my hectic life apart from there), I find myself feeling very stressed out lately.
I get very attached to the patients there and feel very frustrated knowing they are going to die and there is nothing I can do about it. We do have a support group at the hospice for the volunteers, to help deal with our grief when patients die, but I haven’t found an effective way to deal with the stress and frustration I feel personally. I don’t want to quit, because I value the friendships I have with those people and feel I am making a significant contribution. What do you suggest?
Frustrated in Foster City
I can tell that you care deeply for the people you touch. I believe I understand. As healers, we often get into the mindset of “…maybe I can save this one…she could be my sister, my mother…he has become my best friend…I should be able to do something else to help…” Part of the very vital work you (we) do is to, in a sense, be a torch-bearer on someone’s journey, not a savior. Instead, connect with your purpose in their lives.
You are bringing light, love and spirit to someone’s process–like a deliverer of flowers & balloons. Even as there is a never-ending supply of flowers & balloons, you will not become a balloon yourself. Nor will your flame of love and spirit be vanquished if you can compassionately detach yourself from what you deliver as a hospice worker.
We cannot give the gift of life itself–we are merely blessed with the privilege of stewardship for a short time. Affirm your connectedness with the residents while they are on their journey, but allow Spirit to decide when your work is complete. Commit to being a conduit for light and warmth for the people you touch. We are not the light itself, just the bulb through which it shines.
It’s important to have a spirit-balancing activity that we use to keep ourselves grounded. (Order the Stress Report ASAP) For you, I would highly recommend growing a garden or raising a few potted plants. You can even make your garden or potted plants part of the gift you share with the staff and residents. They too will continue to live even after you have graduated from college and continued on your way. Thanks for being a light along my way.—Live for joy!—AP