Soul Restoration Ceremony for Personal and Professional Caregivers and Volunteers
This 4-hour program is designed for personal caregivers, professional healthcare providers, and volunteers, as well as Healthcare Supervisors and Administrators. Ongoing, unrelenting, caregiving can wear a person down. It slowly and gradually exerts PTSD-like effects on the brain and nervous system. Whether providing care to a family member or working as a professional healthcare provider, caregivers face loss, change, and transition on a daily basis. Because the losses are chronic, they may not even be recognized, subtly robbing the care provider of their own sense of self (a Soul Injury). This can produce notable physical and emotional symptoms, interfering with personal and professional well-being. The literature now recognizes this as “Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder” (STSD). Unfortunately, it often goes unassessed. Yet, organizations with staff who work in burn-out rich environments (ICU, ER, Hospice, Foster Care, funeral homes, etc.) have a duty to assess, respond to, and prevent STSD. To fail to do so, is unethical.
Professional caregiving sometimes threaten to squeeze the soul out of the workplace. Personal caregiving might squeeze the soul out of a relationship. This occurs because both personal and professional caregivers often disconnect from the part of self that is carrying their pain. This disconnection unwittingly contributes to loss of energy, emptiness, and “compassion fatigue.” Re-connecting with the part of self generating the pain, paradoxically, restores wholeness.
The Opus Peace Soul Restoration program for caregivers has two parts. The information section provides education on:
· Secondary PTSD
· Current research relating to the brain and neuroplasticity
· Re-setting the brain by accessing the self-compassionate part of the brain
· Transforming the brain by installing new “software”
· Cultivating honesty, courage, and humility to do the work of “soul restoration”
The second portion of the program, the Soul Restoration ceremony, acknowledges the hardships that care providers have incurred, teaches them how to grieve and release the losses they face, and helps them learn how to become a “gracious receiver.”
How did the Soul Restoration Ceremony for Personal and Professional Caregivers originate?
Two merging forces compelled Deborah Grassman, the Founder of Opus Peace, to initiate Caregiver ceremonies:
· Most self-care programs focus primarily on improving physical and emotional health (diet, exercise, massage, breathing techniques, mindfulness, etc.), and “resiliency training” without addressing loss, guilt, and shame that healthcare providers experience as they daily witness patients’ and their families’ acute and/or chronic suffering.
· Increased documentation requirements, governmental regulations, and dwindling resources have caused supervisors and administrators to focus less on staff needs because time and resources are simply no longer available.
“As a Nurse Practitioner AND as a Hospice Director, I was on both sides of the fence,” says Deborah Grassman, Founder of Opus Peace. She adds that when she started in Hospice 30 years ago, attention and resources were spent on the bereavement needs of staff. “Little by little, over the years, staff needs started taking a back seat to other pressures. I could no longer provide the 1:1 support that they needed and Employee Assistance programs really didn’t know how to help staff grieve.”
Deborah’s frustration grew when she attended conferences that focused on self-care. “Too often, we were being told to ‘be more resilient’ or to ‘work smarter, not harder.” Deborah believes that these kinds of platitudes only make staff feel guilty because it isn’t always possible to be smarter or more resilient. “I was caught in an ethical dilemma of not being able to respond to needs of the staff without compromising either patient care and/or needed administrative duties.”
This led Deborah to pursue her Master’s degree thesis on the relationship between ceremony and hope. “This was an answer to the dilemma I was in. I learned how to construct effective ceremonies that are not only efficient, but effective with large groups of people. At last, I had a tool that was neither time-consuming, nor labor-intensive.”