This spring has brought many losses to our congregation. In fact, going back to last summer, there have been ten deaths of members or others closely associated with UUCPA. It’s a lot. One of our leaders, showing wisdom as well as kindness, asked how I deal with it. It’s a really good question because ministers and other people in the helping professions can stop being helpful and even do unintended harm if they don’t take care of their own emotional needs.
We grow to love the people of this congregation; oftentimes we work with them as closely as with a professional co-worker, and we miss them very much when they are gone. It’s good to know whether the caregivers are themselves getting care. We each have our own ways of doing so. Here are mine:
I have a spiritual director I meet with every other week. She’s kind of like a therapist, except that the questions are explicitly spiritual, and she’s kind of like my own minister. I specifically sought her out because I wanted help dealing with grief and loss, and she has a lot of experience in training ministers in pastoral care (the field community ministers Melissa Thomson and Jen Dillinger are in), which entails helping people deal well with these issues. She also really understands that art is one of my practices and often suggests ways I can use it to help myself.
I make art that expresses and explores loss, love, my worries, etc.–it’s very grounding. I’m always amazed at how much lighter an emotional burden is once I give it form. I write in a journal frequently for the same reason.
I’m in a group of female-identified UU clergy, like a Chalice Circle; we meet monthly and have check-ins and conversations that go very deep. Over time, we have established so much trust that I can bring anything I am struggling with to the group and know their presence and love will not falter.
I have good friends, the kind that mean it when they say “Call me even at 2 a.m.”
I am careful to protect my rest time. On my days off, I do a lot of puzzles, cook, read, garden, and make art. I have two e-mail addresses, one for friends and family and one for church, so that I can check for e-mails from my mom without getting sucked into work worries. Sunday afternoon, once I get home from services / meetings / classes at UUCPA, the shoes come off, the pajamas go on, and I spend the rest of the day reading something light (which for me can mean a murder mystery or dystopian sci fi–hey, I like them!), watching Doctor Who with Indigo, or napping. (So powerful is the Sunday Nap in ministerial circadian rhythms that even when I have a Sunday off, I start to feel sleepy around 3 p.m. . . . )
And last but most important, I am blessed with a family that’s strong and supportive. Joy and Indi and I have fun together, we relax, we play games. We enjoy each other’s company, which also means we can be there for each other in times of sorrow or stress. When you support my one-Sunday-a-month off and my uninterrupted vacation time, you’re keeping that strong–keeping me strong. Thank you.