To celebrate Mental Health Week in October 2023, Spiritual Health Association re-launched its 2019 Honouring Statement with a new look, but with the same important message. It continues to serve as a resource for healthcare professionals who encounter patient death in their work. It invites people to take a moment to honour the person, their life, and the people they have touched. In doing so, we recognise the inherent dignity and equal worth of all.
Acknowledging death as a human rite of passage is an important way to build resilience and support good spiritual and mental health practices for all healthcare workers. Healthcare providers and the medical model can be socialised to view death as a failure. The Honouring Statement brings an element of the sacred back into the profane world of medicine and gives permission for health care staff to pause, be still, and to acknowledge the hard stuff.
The Honour Statement is available to purchase in our Shop.
Testimonial from Cynthia White, Spiritual Care Practitioner, Lisa Thurin Women’s Health Centre, Cabrini Hospital, Melbourne.
I used the Honour Statement in May of this year as part of a ritual I created when we were informed that a client who had accessed our service had taken her own life. We knew she had experienced this as a very safe place to be when in our care. Many of us experienced a range of emotions from being deeply sad to a sense of helplessness.
I invited the entire team to gather conducting it over two days to enable all members of the team to attend. The ritual was an honouring of her life, her struggles, and the time she shared with us. More so, we needed some closure, and to acknowledge and honour the care that we offered her as a committed team of health professionals in this space and to validate our best efforts in supporting her during that time.
I incorporated the Honour Statement in my Reflection and Peace Gathering to honour her life and our work.
I created a display with some rosemary, candles, Tree of Life, her name in coloured wooden blocks and some coloured buttons in a bowl.
We started with an introduction of why we had gathered.
We paid her our respect by acknowledging the part of her life journey she shared with us and how we were blessed to have had that privilege. A few moments were spent reflecting on this silently, and this allowed space for some silent tears and other emotions to surface.
I chose to then play Kelly Clarkson’s song ‘Breakaway’ – out of the darkness and into the sun…
Following this, each member of the team was invited to choose a card from the St. Luke’s Innovative Resources ‘Picture This’ card series, one that resonated with how they were feeling at this time – a memory, an emotion they were experiencing or a thought they wanted to share. After a few moments those who wished to, shared what they were feeling.
We then read the Honour Statement together. I had prepared printed copies that I had adapted slightly.
As a human family we are all deeply connected. We experience this feeling of connection in times of both profound joy and at times of deep sorrow and questioning. In our work we may encounter situations and people who challenge our core beliefs, expectations for recovery, notions of security and the hope that things can get better.
As a staff team we have collectively dedicated many years to the care of others, and we have witnessed the fragility and suffering of many people.
One of them was our client – XXXX
Today we remember her with love and respect.
We also honour the care that we offered as a team of committed health care professionals. As we move forward in our work, the kindness and holding of one another will support our emotional, psychological, and spiritual health. When we pay attention to and honour these aspects of ourselves, we honour all those we have cared for and those we will care for in the future.
The ritual concluded with each person choosing a button that would be made into a flower and kept in the hospital’s sacred space in our client’s memory.
Staff feedback included:
26th October 2023.