As a team, we chaplains have been learning about "getting in the hole" with folks. That means getting into the dark and deep places where the patient/family member is hanging out and connecting with them there. Deep companioning, witnessing and sharing can happen. And sometimes healing can happen.
It's the opposite of responding with "oh, that happened to me one time... let me tell you about it..." It's a scary place to be vulnerable with another and connect in fear, loneliness, alienation, confession, or hopelessness.
So last week, I presented a verbatim about an encounter that I had with a man who was very worried about the future and regretful about the past. [Verbatim: an account of an exchange between me and a patient or family member. Includes "she said, then I said, then she said, then I said" as well as an analysis of what I was feeling and my theological take on it.]
At the time, I sensed that I connected with him. However, one of the gifts of "verbatim" is that I can stand back and look at the exchange and realize with my own two eyes and with no small amount of humility that I perhaps missed him. I am fascinated by my blindspots.
It took some nudging and coaching from my supervisor and my colleagues for me to realize that no, I did not get into the hole with this guy. I merely reflected back to him that yep, he was in that hole. How's it look from down there?
The redux came this Monday. I had a chance to take a timed-release capsule lesson from that verbatim and ruminate on it over the weekend. Funny thing was, that I could not remember what the "solution" was for that guy. As I talked it out with my colleagues and my supervisor, I got to experience it all over again.
As my supervisor modeled one way to "get in the hole," I realized how much I need to stay awake and alert even as I am present to the patient's story. I'm really blessed to be with a team of colleagues that will be with me on this strange and sometimes repetitive journey of learning.
Over and over, I hear the words of Matthew, "do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say..." and, well, show up one more time to the next patient to see if I can get into their hole with them.
How did you show up today?