When the Pain Is the Deepest
By Kimberly Delveau, Licensed Master Social Worker, Genesis Hospice
To me, there's no greater reward than being
around people you care about
and can be present with - Diane Lane.
...Words Should Be the Fewest
"When the pain is the deepest, the number of words should be the fewest." I am not sure where I first heard this statement, but the concept touched me.
As a teenager and young adult, I thought that when I saw someone in emotional pain. I needed to say something to that person; I needed to be the personal cheerleader who would make sadness leave. I realized with age that sadness was acceptable, and words do not make the pain depart.
There Were No Words
In 2003, a much-loved family member was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I immediately went to see if this could be true because his medical issues were heart-related and not cancer. When I walked into his hospital room, I saw the x-ray hanging in its case on the wall at the foot of his bed.
I stared with disbelief at the large black film. There I saw three white spots on each vertebrae. Then there was the x-ray of his lungs, again, white spots throughout. I was devastated. I could not speak.
Unfortunately, I had enough medical understanding to know the visions I had just witnessed meant he was going to die. My pain was intense and deep. I was the healthy one who would continue to survive. There were no words to make my pain better. I was the family member.
Thankfully, I was permitted time with him before he passed. We shared conversations, just the two of us. More importantly, we were present with each other. We sat in the same room doing our own thing, yet aware of the other person. Occasionally we shared our time with the television; yet more often we sat in complete silence. This is what it meant to be present. We were both comforted and pleased to have this shared experience.
Presence Is Being Available
He who does not understand your silence
will probably not understand your words - Elbert Hubbard.
I have had many opportunities to speak with hospice patients, their families, and their friends. Frequently family members and friends ask me what they can do for the patient who is too weak to leave the bed. Often my suggestion is to be present. I then continue with an explanation.
Presence is being available to the other person physically and emotionally. One can be present holding a hand at the bedside or sitting in a chair across the room. There can be conversation, music or silence; simply being available and open to the other person.
Being present also applies to caregivers, family and friends. They, too, can be comforted by your presence. When their emotional pain is intense, your presence, not words, may bring the most comfort. Rarely do people remember spoken words. They remember your presence--simply you being there.
It states in the book of Job, "Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was." As I left a local nursing home today, I noticed a husband and wife sitting in their usual alcove in silence reading the daily newspaper. He visits her daily, the same routine, being present, bringing her peace in their special quiet time. Who do you know that is grieving and needs your ministry of presence?
The Genesis Health System’s mission, “To provide compassionate, quality health services to all those in need,” is not just about healing the physical wounds of the body. Grief’s Healing Journey programming helps heal the heart.
Get more information, or contact a Genesis Grief Support staff member at 563-421-5000.
If you desire to talk with a grief support specialist, simply fill out the form below. Our staff will contact you to schedule an appointment at your earliest convenience: