Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Hospitalized Friend And The Grief Process.

A lazy Skype chat is interrupted yesterday, by a sad phone call from a friend. Her grown daughter fell in their home, severed an artery in her leg, spent a week in ICU, and now is in a regular hospital room. My friend doesn't know if her daughter will ever be able to walk again, or how long she'll have to remain in the hospital. I numbly make arrangements to go and see her daughter, calling the daughter on the phone and noting the tears in her voice.

It is now 5 AM and I've been scouring the net looking for how to be a good visitor. I suddenly realize that I'm in grief. I know from personal experience about some of what NOT to do when visiting someone who is ill. The usual stupid stuff, like, telling them your troubles, claiming you know how they feel or going into hyper-religion on them. But, I keep wanting to go back over the scary fact that this twenty-something gal may not be able to walk again. This is my grief work and I have to face it before seeing the daughter, or her mother. It just plain-old hurts.

Her mom and I have had a rocky on-again-off-again kind of relationship. I am no counselor, but this lady is driven by her own needs to try and make me into her counselor. So, I've hung back. I've always liked her daughter, but we've never really gotten to talk, as the daughter saw I was attempting to stay friends with her lovable, but at times, crazy-making mom. I know God will help me to be helpful tomorrow. From the research I've done, being a decent visitor is mainly about not staying too long and LISTENING. I remember the worst example of nurse-bedside-manner I've ever experienced.

I was at the blind school, in my thirties, finally learning how to use a white cane and all the rest of how to do life, if I ever lost my sight. I had the flu, but was also depressed over my complete inability to connect with people. The staff nurse comes in and sees me curled up with my Bible. I was so emotionally out of it, that I didn't read God's Word, but I slept with this bible in a zipper case. Everyone loved that Bible, and after she looks at it and hands it back to me, she asks:

"Why don't you have any friends?" (I believe there is a TV series: "Just Shoot Me")? That had to be the absolute worst thing this lady could have asked me. Fever and all, I fell into uncontrollable crying, which she couldn't and wouldn't deal with. So, she got up and left my room. I remember turning back to God, as suddenly, I was alone again! What a question!

Then there is the hysterical-religious approach. "No matter what... Be thankful, God is good." These things are both true, but not necessarily something I will utter tomorrow. If the daughter wants to pray to, or rage at God, I will listen and follow her lead. The last thing she needs is some fool who has no idea what she is feeling, wanting or needing, to turn super-spiritual on her.

It is interesting, that the sermon last night was on having the wisdom to know when to be quiet! My favorite proverb:

Prov. 17:28 Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

I count my own blessings, that I have enough mental health to truly be available to listen to the concerns and pain of another person. It is one of the ways I say "thank you" to all God has done and is still doing for me.

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