Last weekend I received word that my 40 year old nephew, ‘Sam’, had committed suicide. He was a bright, sensitive man who left behind to mourn his loss a 10 year old son, a fiancé, his mother and father, two sisters and a brother …and me.
On Monday I went to work and knew I needed to see hospice patients. When staff or family members or patients asked me how I was, my mouth formed the word, “Fine”, but my heart wanted to say, “I’m not fine. Sam is dead! He killed himself!” How does one take care of oneself when grieving and still remain professional at work? The following is not the answer but my answer.
First of all I had already reached out to my support system who responded with a caring for which I will always be grateful. (This is KEY in taking care of oneself!) And I told my coworkers who offered kind words of support. But when it came to working with patients, I needed to be professional and not let my pain be evident to them. As a person of faith I prayed and asked to be open to receive all the help and caring and energy that would be around me that day. And throughout the day I received just what I had prayed for.
The sweetness of an elderly woman with dementia who sent me out the door after her session with, “Honey, you take care of yourself,” was heard and her words touched my heart, going to a much deeper level than usual. I later went to do an assessment with a patient who had just received a terminal diagnosis and she just sat there and cried and cried. She then pointed to my guitar and said, “Play that thing.” I reached for it and before I had time to worry about what I should play she said, “Do you know ‘On Eagles Wings’?” I did and I played and sang the song and others like it and she nodded her head to let me know it was just what she wanted. As her tears flowed I cried inside for her and her family – and for Sam and the rest of my family. She didn’t want words – only music. And the words flowed over me….. Please God, raise them up. Hold her in the palm of your hands. Hold Sam in the palm of your hands.
And in this way I got through the day until I could go home and be an outwardly grieving person. And that is how I got through the next day, and the next, and through a week now. I am a music therapist who wants to be present to each patient and client I meet while still grieving over this very tragic loss.
~ Staff Music Therapist