In My Shoes – a family support practitioner’s understanding

By Pauline Hammond, Grampians Region Family Support Practitioner

For those of us working in paediatric palliative care, the statement “You must be a special type of person to do the work you do”, is praise that we’ve all received, somewhat awkwardly, at one stage or another.  Whilst the work is undeniably privileged, emotional, and rewarding, what we do is not heroic.  It’s the brave families who invite us in, and trust us with their vulnerability, that are the heroes of their stories.

When someone asks me what I do, my answer is a simple one; “I listen to people who are hurting, and bear witness to their pain”.

For the families I have supported, this is what my shoes feel like.    

I sit in the space you make for me.  A little uncomfortably, at first.  Your pain squishes us both, pressing from the outside in, and from the inside out, leaving little room for false pleasantries.  Your truth is palpable, tenderly touching me, as you share, layer upon layer, your precious story.
A child…… a life…… a diagnosis…… a death……
I hear you.

 I hear the words that you cannot speak, and I understand that the language of grief is a lived experience.  After the storm, the subtlety of grief can be easily missed.  The gulp of air, when you forget to breathe.  The booming heartbeat, that renders you temporarily deaf.  The shadow drifting into the path of your gaze, weighing heavily, as it snags in your head, and your feet.
I see you.

For a while, hope seems elusive.  Meaning is intangible.  Upside down becomes the right side up, and fears of falling are real.  The world becomes nonsensical, unthinkable, unimaginable.  The extent of your broken heart, inconceivable.  And the grief…the grief is just too big.
I am here with you.

I hold your hope, for safekeeping.
I am present.
I will witness your pain, validate your agony, and share the space you make for me.
I hear you.
I see you.