Saturday, July 30, 2011

Time For Everything

I am having problems with my PC, keeps rebooting, most likely hit by a virus. So I will post something I wrote yesterday before it reboots again.

Dying Time
Yesterday, Yeong loan me a book called Cancer As A Turning Point by Lawrence LeShan, PhD. As I browse through the table of contents, I could not help noticed a chapter called The Person Who is Dying. So, I skipped the early chapters and zoomed in directly to this chapter. This chapter is about what people (like therapist and caregivers) should know when working with people who are very sick or people who are in dying mode. For cancer patients, the distinction of the two are not clearly drawn particularly for those who are in advance stage of the illness who have moved from very sick to the dying mode.

Deciding on when the shift occurred is particular difficult for the therapist. LeShan points out "The essence of Dying Time is to see the whole of our lives as a pattern and a symphony in which the themes swell and recede and the whole makes a real and organic whole." In order to work with people in this period, therapists must be aware of something that all psychotherapists should know but rarely do. Therapists cannot pretend belief or interest. Thus honesty on the part of of the therapist is as much an observable, is as real, as mass or inertia are in the world of machines. You cannot fake!

In listening, you must learn not to reassure. What dying people need is someone to hear who they are and what their life is and has been. So you do not say "You have a great deal to live for." Most professionals have long since learned that this is useless and only tells the patients that we have not listened, that we only heard the words and not the feeling and the life behind it. I think this also applies to cancer patients in sick mode too. Very often caregivers and friends often make the mistake of saying something reassuring which does not help. What we want is just for someone to listen.

So basically, whether for therapists or caregivers, it you are not genuinely interest in the patient and are not prepared to listen, do not get involved. Any response from a therapists that come from techniques rather than from human feelings is antitherapeutic. You can only do damage.

Remember what is the most common regret people have at a death bed? If you have forgotten, you can read here. So, what kind of questions and statements are useful in helping patients toward the task appropriate in the Dying Time? In his book LeShan lists many but one stands out:

All our lives we try to change people to what we think that they should be. At this time of life we can often see that love is accepting people as they are and letting them be while hoping and wishing for more for them. Can you do this with those you love? What in you keeps you from this?

1 comment:

  1. Dear CT Chang,

    No matter what you decide on. No matter where you go, I will be here and will continue to respect your decisions. I truly believe that Grace is adequate for us. No matter what you chose, I will keep praying for you (and hope you dont deny me that).