One of the Greatest Gifts
Presence - a gift I learned to give to patients and families while practicing nursing. Of course, its application is universal.
- •Presence is intentionalFirst, consciously shed your distractions. I try to visualize all my distractions and personal drama being washed down the drain. This way I can let go of my ego-focus and shift it to the other person.
- •Open yourself to the other person.If possible I sit down near or facing the other person. I try to make eye contact even if it's brief, or depending on how well I know the person, perhaps a gentle brief touch. It may be more meaningful for both of you if you can have your heart facing their heart. You want them to know you are here just to be with them. Try not to have any expectations about it.
- •Allow for silence.We are often quick to fill the void. It's a gift to them, not to you. In silence reflection occurs. We need quiet time to think and sort things out. Eventually words will come. From them, not you. Avoid speaking first.
- •Listen to understand, to let them vent both negative and positive feelings, to allow and promote healing.Don't interrupt. Don't give advice. Don't ask questions. Don't tell your story. Don't compare their experience to someone else's. Don't tell them it's in God's hands. Don't tell them it was meant to be. Basically don't tell them anything. And don't do anything either unless they ask. Because it is not about you or what you want to know or what you want to do or what you want to say. It's about them. Just be there. Don't do. Just be.
- •Be real. Be you. Be the whole mind-body-spirit real you.Everyone can sense a fake so don't try to fake it. If you are not able to give this gift it's okay. Just don't do it. It's a gift, not an obligation. But if you can give this gift it is so meaningful and can provide real comfort.
- •People may sit quietly, or they might laugh, rant, cry, tell you secrets, tell you stories, ask you to pray.Accept what they do as their gift to you. Don't violate their trust. And don't start messing up with the behaviors in #4. Just respond based on their needs. So for example, if they cry you can provide a tissue or a hug if they seem open to it. If they're talking and sharing or angry you can just listen. If they ask you to pray and you are of a different faith or are a nonbeliever you can offer to hold hands while they pray, explaining you have different beliefs but are there to support them.
- •In these moments of mutual caring and trust our humanity is expressed.Our shared life experiences, stories, emotions and authentic presence create meaningful moments that often stay with us forever.
- •These moments build up our trust with each other but also with people in general. As we experience more moments of caring trust we stockpile these moments in our memory. That way when we mess up or someone else does we can draw from the stockpile to help see us through. It helps us with gratitude and forgiveness.Giving somebody the the gift of your presence doesn't just uplift and help them but it also uplifts and helps you and your future interactions with other people. Being listened to is a universal need.
- •So if you can, give this gift freely and often.If you can't, try to recognize when others give you their presence. It will help you learn from them. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes not.
- •For me this was the greatest joy of being a nurse. It is an incredible privilege to share with people in the most important and intimate moments of their life such as birth, death, surgery, injury, or serious illness.Being allowed to be present, to share their joy, fear, loneliness, grief, healing and recovery allowed me to grow my humanity and trust enormously. And I am forever grateful to them for allowing me to be present.