Finding the Meaning of Life Through Memories

Categories: Care, Featured, and People & Places.

Life review is one of the many methods of spiritual care. Through reviewing the experience of past achievements in life and discovering the meaning of life, the clients are helped to move towards the future with peace of mind in appreciation, praise, gratitude and letting go.

In addition to physical pain control and psychological grief soothing, what else can hospice and palliative care do? Domestic front-line staff who devote themselves to hospice care understand in their hearts that spiritual care is also an indispensable and important piece of the puzzle. What exactly is spiritual care? How should we carried it out?

Sister Teresa Hsieh DC (Daughters of Charity) said frankly that the content of spiritual care is extensive, and there are many ways to deal with it and be involved. She focuses on the skills of life review and transformation, saying, “Through listening to the life stories of the client, we help him or her find the meaning and the unity of life.”

Changing your mentality to find lost value from memories

Time never goes back. What has happened can neither be changed nor erased. The good and bad of the past will remain in the memory. As a result, some people have been tortured by this fact and some cannot escape.

But memories are not just memories. People can also find meaning from these life experiences. “It’s not about lingering on the glorious past and sighing at present with regret. It’s also not about being stuck in a painful experience that we can’t bear to look back at. We can appreciate it, too. We can accept it, and then take these fruits to the future,” said Sister Hsieh.

A middle-aged woman once told Sister Hsieh of her miserable childhood. Due to the long-term disharmony between her parents, she had been facing a scenario where her parents could separate at any time. Subsequently, she was always anxious and fearful that her mother would leave the home one day and never return.

“So when my mother went out in the middle of the night to buy goods from wholesalers, I would get up and follow her,” the woman shared. The dark roads and the bright and noisy wholesale market, the scenes from decades ago were as if it were just yesterday in her memory. “In the six years of elementary school, I spent every night like this. After I arrived at the wholesale market, my mother would ask me to stand in front of a store and wait for her. I thought I was so pitiful at that time.”

The childhood memories were tragic, but Sister Hsieh did not follow the woman’s dark mood. Instead, she smiled and praised her, “How brave you were! You could accompany your mother to the wholesale market when you were only six years old.” Sister Hsieh leaned forward so that the woman could see her sincerity. “At that time, you must have been the greatest strength that supported your mother. Think about it. Your mother was so young, only in her 30s, and in the middle of the night, she went to a place full of men to buy wholesale. It was because of your company that she could brave through those days.”

These few words enlightened the woman. “Yes, my mother always said in her old age that I was a very devoted daughter,” the woman began to laugh. Then she said, “At first I felt that my misery always happened in the dark, for example, accompanying my mother to buy wholesale, the prompt decision I had to make to reply to the doctor whether my husband would receive first aid when he was in an emergency, and packing alone to move to another place in the middle of the night when my husband passed away.”

At this time, the woman looked at Sister Hsieh with gratitude, “Think about it now. The dark nights are actually when I have power.” What used to be the desolation back then now bears a completely different definition for this current moment.

Finding the source of spiritual power in the darkness

Sister Teresa Hsieh said that the focus of life review is to guide clients to improve their self-worth in appreciation and acceptance, and to take this inspiration to the future. Therefore, life review is not only aimed for people who are dying or old. Like the middle-aged woman in the story, everyone is suitable to have their soul soothed through life review.

Whether a memory is deep in the valley or high in the bright peak of life, it is a topic that can be used to be inspected in the life review process. However, on the clinical front line, Sister Hsieh saw the hesitation of many service staff, especially when confronting the sad memories of the clients, they didn’t know what to do. Therefore, she is cooperating with Hospice Foundation of Taiwan to write a brief manual on spiritual care in the hope of providing guidance and reference for clinical staff in the future, so that they can understand that darkness is never just darkness, but that it is a ticket to soothing the soul.

“When we listen to people telling stories, we all see the dark side. But why is there darkness? Isn’t it because there is light on the other side?” questions Sister Hsieh with a smile. Just like in her eyes, from beginning to end, hope and love will always be in the people and things she meets. She affirms, “A place with shadow must have a source of light. The larger the shadow, the stronger the light. Therefore, our frontline personnel should not be frightened by the shadow, or even feel sorrow with their clients; instead, they should find where the light is and believe that the power is there.”

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This information was provided by Hospice Foundation Taiwan

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