“I meet people in the hard place,” Viviana says. “A place where everything else falls away. These are people who are at their most vulnerable – but also at their most courageous.”
Viviana works alongside Vivienne and Kate who make up the team of Mary Potter Hospice counsellors. The three walk with a patient or their family in their journey with the Hospice. Usually sessions are held face-to-face, but with the current lockdown restrictions, Viviana and the team have transitioned to offering sessions over the phone and video conferencing.
The changes have posed unique challenges for both the counsellors and the clients, Viviana says.
“I am having to concentrate and listen in a different way. When you are face-to-face with someone, you can read their body language and respond. I have had to find new ways of holding space and being a compassionate presence.”
Covid-19 restrictions have created additional stressors for people in the community, she says. For some clients it was particularly difficult not being able to come together as extended family.
“I am currently working with people who have deep sadness because they have not been able to be with their family member at end of life or have the opportunity to hold a funeral. Their loved ones have been cremated which was not what they wanted. The inability to be able to gather with wider family is adding to people’s pain.”
While challenging, individuals and families are doing their best to get through, Viviana says.
“We are trying to support people to stay connected. People have been resourceful and creative. Like holding a Skype session with an entire family to share stories, laugh and cry together. Working with people to access their own wisdom and grow resiliency is a key focus.”
Depending on the client and their needs, she may meet with them regularly over a period of time, or just have one session with them.
“Hospice is a holistic person centered philosophy of care, not a place. We take the service to people and will meet them where they want. It is a real privilege to meet people in their own environment and be invited into their homes. I love working in the community as part of a multidisciplinary team bringing care to people.”
When the lockdown lifts, Viviana says she can’t wait to see her clients and her team face to face. The ability to be in the same space as others is something she misses.
“I am looking forward to having that human connection. And to feel it. To really be with people.”
People sometimes remark that working for the Hospice must be ‘sad’. Viviana says there are moments, but they are outweighed by the laughter and healing that takes place right in front of her.
“It is truly both humbling and inspiring to walk alongside people living with a life-limiting illness and their families.”
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