Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Continuing on the Path

My Parish Discernment Committee met for the first time on Sunday after church. As I've mentioned before, they had the first meeting without me, to hear from the rector what the process will be. A good friend of my husband's (happens to be a M.Th. grad) will chair it. Should be good. I'm so very fortunate to have the support that I do! I can't wait for the first meeting with them.

One of the young couples in the parish gave birth Sunday night to twins, born three months premature. One weighs 1 pound and a half, the other slightly less. These tiny babies, each weighing about as much as a gerbil, have an 80% shot of making it, according to the neonatologists. Too soon to tell, of course, if they will have any neurological or other deficits because of the extreme prematurity. Thank goodness they're in a superb teaching hospital, where they'll get state-of-the-art care.

It raises a question for me, though, about pastoral care. I wanted to ask you RevGalBlogPals about it, because I suspect many of you have tender hearts, as I do. How does one keep emotions in check when working with these folks? They surely don't need my tears. I want to honor their struggle to cope rather than adding to their burden by welling up. I know when I get to CPE, my supervisor will tell me "It's not about YOU, Mibi." I already know that. I'm still a softy, though. How do you manage it?

In the meantime, people are bracing for Hurricane Rita. Seems like we're being washed in the salt of the sea, instead of the blood of the Lamb...a much less gentle cleansing, I think.


Songbird said...

Well, pastoral care is not about you, but CPE is. It's about learning to know what situations and dynamics are your personal Chinese Finger Traps. They won't stop affecting you, but you'll know what they are. And CPE is also about cultivating a pastoral presence, figuring out what your persona as pastoral caregiver will be, how you will represent God. When you go out to serve a church, you will also go into it knowing that you have to be in a different relationship with the people than in your current church. It's all a process.

Sophia said...


I've often wondered the same thing about keeping my emotions in check.

I used to be a volunteer patient advocate in an inner city trauma center. I LOVED my work there. I found that car accidents, stabbings/shootings, psych patients, other traumatic injuries, heart attacks, terminally ill patients, etc. were all situations that I could deal with while keeping myself together. However, I had a harder time restraining my emotions in situations involving rapes, domestic violence, suicide, injuries to firefighters or police, and anything dealing with children.

And then there was always the need to keep that balance between compassion and distance. I knew that if I became too distraught after talking with a young woman who had been injured by her boyfriend I would be no good to the man dying of cancer in the next room. I prayed. Hard. Often.

One of the things about ER work was that I never knew what became of people. I feel like that made things much easier for me. I worry about how to keep it together when dealing with people who I have an ongoing relationship with. I worry about not only their funerals but also their weddings, confirmations, and baptisms. Rites of passage make me weepy.

I guess we will learn as we go...

reverendmother said...

It seems to me that a little welling up shows empathy--breaking down and sobbing probably crosses a line.

When I did CPE I found that I needed to do some kind of ritual to let things/people go before going on to the next thing. A prayer where I actually imaged placing the person into God's arms. (i.e. so I'm not responsible for holding him/her anymore) It's hard. I learned it the hard way though, during my internship when a homeless woman came in and poured her heart out to me. I directed her to some help, and she left relieved and grateful. The next day I had these flu-like symptoms. I don't want to get too woo-woo about it but I do think all that stress and heartbreak went into me. She left feeling better, I left with all her grief still lurking in my body. That's when I realized that I needed to give it to God.

Just my experience.