When I can, I do hospice work with Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association. They do in home hospice and hospice in board and care facilities as well as nurse services. Volunteers attend a 8 week class. You learn the best ways to interact with with the patients and what to expect. It teaches you far more than you can even imagine.
Once a year they have a retreat and I went this year. It’s at a beach home and it’s a lovely time of getting the soul nourished. This year they had a Registered Poet Therapist. I didn’t even know there was such a category. Her name is Dr. Perie Longo and she is amazing. She gave a great talk and did some poetry reading for caregivers. She also taught us exercises on how to write as caregivers.
One statistic she shared was this: “Writing about emotions and stress can boost immune functioning in patients…By writing, you put some structure and organization to anxious feelings. It helps you get past them.” James Pennebaker, Researcher from University of Austin, Texas.
This only needs to be done 10-15 minutes three times a week to get the immune boosting benefits. This assists the patient, the caregiver and it’s also a valuable tool for grief counseling. It’s easy to start by asking what emotion is coming up for you and then begin writing as if you are talking to the emotion. This is only one of the ways she shared with us. There are many techniques. It was absolutely wonderful, heart opening and revealing. Many of us shared some wonderful poems and we all got a glimpse into the world of caregiving in its’ many forms. They were touching and some opened up to writing poetry for the first time.
Dr. Perie Longo was a great facilitator and teacher. I leave you with this quote shared by Dr. Longo from a poem by Gregory Orr. “Because poems are meanings, even the saddest poem I write is proof that I want to survive. And therefore it represents an affirmation of life in all its complexities and contradictions.” For more information on Poetry Therapy, check out Dr. Longo’s website. Have you ever written poetry? Have you ever wanted to do so? Would you consider this to help yourself or a loved you who is faced with a serious illness?