A recent session with a newly referred lady, “Marge”, at the nursing home, left us feeling rather drained and tired by the end of the day. Not physically, considering all we did was sit in the garden and chat with her, but emotionally. Because all she did was tell us about how she has no one in the world, how she wanted to kill herself, how the only reason why she hasn’t done it yet is because she hasn’t found a foolproof way to do it. For 45 minutes to an hour.
Yet, in between her dismal rants, she sings “Over the Rainbow” in a beautiful quivering voice, she laughs at the birds who hop over to join us, and at the male nurses who have to help another female resident with her knitting.
Her words speak of pain and sorrow accumulated over the years, and carry an unmistakable cry for help. There is nothing we can do except to be there for her, with her. Which is what we did.
But, the fatigue we felt at the end of the session led us to question the aspect of self-care. The fact that we were glad that hers was the last session for the day, that we would not implicate another client/resident with the negativity we felt, shows how much it affected us.
Where does one draw the line between being there for a person and being emotionally implicated? Is it selfish to want to protect ourselves from the emotional baggage spilling out of the people we work so closely with? When our aim is to help them process their emotions and come to resolution? Can we do that without feeling the weight of their sorrow ourselves?
It’s times like these when I wish this placement was supervised instead of being independent. Thankfully there are always experienced people to turn to when we need them.