Resilience is defined as:
- Capacity to recover quickly from difficulties
- Ability of objects or substances to spring back into shape.
"Spiritual resiliency is the individual ability to exercise your faith on a daily basis so you are able to understand, or you are able integrate the joys and sorrows of each day into your life” – Colonel Mike Lembke, United States Forces-Iraq Chaplain
Resiliency as a whole is made up of four dimensions. They are:
Resilience is a key indicator of a person’s ability to deal with most matters of life; a loss of a job, welcoming of a new child, a career change or a death in the family. All these examples and our reactions to them hinge on our ability to become or remain resilient.
Working in the end-of-life process, we often overlook or deny ourselves the opportunity to deal with any one (or more) of these areas that make us resilient to deal with the situationslisted above, or others not named.
There’s the physical – “I should have gone on that walk today, but I just didn’t have the time.”
There’s the mental denial of not coming to terms that a loved one (or the individual themselves) is faced with a new terminal diagnosis. “There’s nothing wrong with mom, we should seek a third opinion.”
Resilience and Recovery
I have countless examples where family members, and even patients, decide not to proceed with providing a social worker with a funeral home because their mental and emotional resilience is, at the time, not able to cope with the fact that death is imminent.
In one particular example, a patient had experience with six deaths of family members within the past five years in which they used the same exact funeral home and chose the same exact services for the memorial services of each family member.
Being cognizant to their right to self-determination, our social worker asked if this was the funeral home they’d like to use, they shockingly said, “No, I haven’t made up my mind yet.”
I remember that social worker coming to me after this occurrence and being baffled that the family did not choose right then and there. The choice that was apparently obvious to them at the time. I remember saying, “their choice will happen when they are ready, but not on our terms or timelines.”
A short while later, that individual died, and the family chose to use the same one they had six times before. In this example, emotional resilience might have been lacking. Often times, it is covered up in denial and self-defense mechanisms, in this case, procrastination, of family members and/or patients. Procrastination many times is utilized to deny oneself the opportunity to work through situations. Another way to look at it is much like a band-aid. We use them to cover up wounds, but when removed often times the scar or after-effects will remain.
Resilience is vitally important when it comes to dealing with grief. Those with issues around emotional and spiritual resilience often show in displaced anger thendenial and then regret. These are the family members that after death are saying, “I wish I would have told them I loved them,” or “I wished I wasn’t so mean to them.” These also are the cases where the individual may have presented themselves as mad and angry towards staff or family members, when in reality there are circumstances, feelings, or emotions that the individual feels towards their loved one that they are not working through because the emotion involved in doing so is too much for the individual. Often in these cases, the end result is regret for not doing so along with no opportunity to bounce back.
Though looking back at the definition of resilience, there is a parallel to those in end of life that struggle. Often times, it’s a family member or a patient themselves that does not see the difficulty, or even worse, we deny ourselves the right to work through it. How can one recover from difficulty if they themselves never saw itor acknowledged it in the first place?
Resilience is not about denial; it is about working through these situations, no matter how tough they may becomeor how stretched our emotions and resiliency is tested. Much like a resistance band, the effects we experience and resilience we create hinges on the effort we put into using that band. The more you pull, the greater the gain you get out of it. Only with great effort then can we bounce back and experience the joys of life. Where do you see yourself as most resilient?
Support Services Director
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care
If you are recovering from a loss, we offer complimentary grief recovery groups in all of the areas we serve. Please call us at 1-888-564-3405 to speak with a bereavement coordinator.
If you found this information helpful, please share it with your network and community.
Copyright © 2016 Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care. All rights reserved.