New beginnings

I had some really good news that I wasn’t able to share with you until I received my acceptance letter in the post today. I’m in the latest intake of a pastoral care course I applied for last year through the Queensland Institute of Clinical Pastoral Education. My interview was about ten days ago, and it went so well that I was offered a place on the spot, so I was quite chuffed to read the letter today. I’m going to be based at one of the city’s largest trauma hospitals.

I don’t ‘belong’ or subscribe to any religion, though if pressed, I would have to say that I’m agnostic. I have my faith and my own spiritual beliefs, but this course is so far removed from being about me – the care industry rarely is. It’s really about how I can best serve people who are ill, suffering and dying, and how this course will, no doubt, extend my charter of compassion. I suppose that it’s a little about me and my experience, but I’m there to listen.

I wrote in my application that it’s never been my intention to be a counsellor, but to ‘be a person who can listen and offer emotional and spiritual support to people who may be in distress due to illness, disability or other trauma’. I once looked at studying social work, and look at it hard I did. After weighing up the pros and cons, the cons became insurmountable – the main offender being burnout.

I see pastoral care as a gentle vocation, and it’s more of a team-oriented approach with other medical professionals that I hope to one day be working closely with. Suffice to say, pastoral carers are quite low on the allied health rung in hospitals, but as I heard last year at the Spiritual Care Australia conference, the landscape of care is changing, and pastoral and spiritual carers aren’t being shunned as they once were. I heard firsthand how nurses are actively calling upon us for their patients who are in an existential or spiritual crisis, which is heartening to say the least.

It’s going to be tough, harrowing and rewarding work. I’ve been a volunteer with various charities and organisations since I was a young girl – namely Cystic Fibrosis and Queenslanders Donate, which is now DonateLife – and while I don’t see my work in pastoral care as volunteer based, the volunteering and other care work I’ve done with the sick and the dying will prove to be an invaluable foundation. Now, I’m no Mother Teresa, but I have high morals, a strong ethical constitution and tremendous expectations of myself. My belief system is one of kindness, respect, equality and compassion, and my experience with illness and death will no doubt temper the potential stress I may encounter with the training I’m about to begin.

I’m expecting to be challenged, humbled and probably brought to my knees as I learn about what it truly takes to be a great spiritual carer. Again – I’m not in the business of ‘fixing’ or rescuing people. All I want to do is comfort people when they are most in need of spiritual support; to help them navigate whatever emotionally perilous journey they may be on. Let the learning and listening begin …

26 thoughts on “New beginnings

    1. That’s the plan, Sarah! I’m loving that ‘throw kindness around like confetti’ meme that’s been going around for a little while – fuck to the yes!! Spread that shit around! Big love to you XO

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  1. Oh Carly, they could not have chosen better. You may be a ‘student’ but you will be going in there with so much to share and yes, teach. It is comforting to know that there will be those who do not subscribe to any religion but are infused with kindness, generosity, respect, equality, compassion…
    Love, love, love, XO

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    1. To tell the truth – I’m SO looking forward to meeting the other students, Lea 🙂 Thanks for your always kind words. It might be a case of the healer gets healed. I’m so happy they chose me XO

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      1. In my humble experience Carly, when trying to help others, my path usually improves. I can’t think of anyone better than you for this work. I know all those you touch will be in safe and compassionate hands. XO

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      2. Your opinion means a hell of a lot to me, Lea. I think through service one’s spirit fundamentally grows. All I’ve ever wanted was to help people and now I’m going be in the thick of it! 😀

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      3. Carly, you are such a dear. That was all I ever wanted. I got my degrees in Psychology, did some social work but I feel that often the best work I did was often volunteer work or just reaching out on my own. Even now, I look for ways to ease the road. Yes, you will be in the thick of it and you will shine even more brightly than you do now if that is possible? :)) XO

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      4. You’re a darling [insert a million love hearts here]. What you said about reaching out on your own really sings to me. When I was waiting for my pastoral care interview, I got talking to a lovely elderly lady who has cancer. Every week, she travels from very far away on public transport and she’s at the hospital for nearly twelve hours each Thursday, but she had the most amazing attitude! It was so nice to hear her story unfold, and the fact that I was going into my interview just brought it home even more that I’m doing the right thing XO

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      5. I believe you are. You have a kind heart and that will take you where you need to go. If you should see that lady again, give her a hug from a friend in France. There is no such thing as too many hugs. 🙂 XO

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  2. Great news Carly. I’ve had a few friends do that and I’m sure you’d know a few too. When I found out that I had the early stages of Institial Lung Disease, I had a fairly significant meltdown and the emotional anguish was excruciating. I spoke to a couple of hospital chaplains and just talked and talked and talked and talked…particularly as I then had to go home and tell everyone else and I needed to somehow process it myself first. I chewed their ears off rather savagely and they reassured me that my reaction was “normal” and helped me get through.
    I don’t think you participated in 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion but in the end about 650 posts were uploaded. After receiving blood transfusions for 5 years, one of the posts I wrote was about the compassion of blood donors which led me onto organ donors and I put a link through to a letter written to her kidney donor, which you would appreciate. If you have a post which I could link to, it would add great depth and help get the word out. A friend of my husband’s boss works in organ donation for Dept Health in Canberra and I’ll forward it to her. If you go to my blog, before the pecan pie recipe, there are three posts about compassion. I would also be interested in your thoughts about how much we should help people and ways of offering help. I’d better get back to making cake pops for my daughter to take to school tomorrow for her birthday xx Rowena

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    1. My ears are ripe for chewing, Rowena. We do 12-15 hours of pastoral ministry contact per week in this course and where the hospital I’m based at is huge. The reaction to want to endlessly talk is totally normal. When I came off life support after my transplant, I had verbal diarrhoea and there was this poor male nurse who copped the brunt of it – pretty sure I told him my whole life story! It’s quite cathartic being able to speak about how and what you’re feeling.

      I didn’t hear about the 1000 Voices Speak of Compassion. It sounds amazing. I’m going to have a search for your post right now as I wolf down dinner. I hope your daughter has an awesome day tomorrow for her birthday! Please send her my best wishes 🙂 XOXO

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      1. Sorry, I should have made sure you knew about it. I wrote a post about it a few weeks ago before we hooked up. Here’s the link and let me know if you have any difficulty: http://new.inlinkz.com/luwpview.php?id=497564&fb_ref=Default
        I managed to get the last post in at number 642.
        It is so good that you are doing that course and people will know just by looking in your eyes etc that you know what it’s like. Been there. Keep me posted. I will pass on your wishes to Amelia. She is so excited! Love & blessings, Rowena

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      1. Me too! But not much preparation on this end. My poems are collecting in a drawer, and when the time comes i’ll pull out the ones that seem most ‘Regime’ – that doesn’t sound very professional, does it? How are yours coming along?

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