Advice from a hospital chaplain
I attended a lunch gathering today where Susan Cosio, a friend who's a hospital chaplain in Sacramento, talked about what's important to know if you ever need to visit someone in the hospital. She deals with illness, injury, trauma, crisis, and death on a regular basis. What do you do if (or when) you need to care for someone who is facing these situations? I thought this was useful not just for pastors but for anyone. Here are my takeaways:
- You can never be completely prepared for a situation of crisis. Don't even pretend that you are or can be in control of the situation. Instead, let the complexities and intense emotions drive you to depend on God.
- Jesus got to the hospital room long before you did. He is with the broken, hurting, sick, and broken. When you go into a situation of crisis, you are getting to hang out with Jesus.
- People in the hospital often wonder whether anyone really cares about them. The best place to start is to simply let them know you care.
- Let your words be few. Don't try to solve problems for people. Don't tell them you know why God let this bad thing happen. Don't give them advice or try to teach them things. Just be present and be a vehicle for God's compassion.
- People usually want to pray, even if they don't go to church very often. Don't shy away from praying with them.
- If you are wondering whether you should visit someone, default toward visiting rather than holding back. But call first.
- People in crisis often feel like they are in over their heads. Ask how they are holding up or how they are coping. Give them the space to say "I'm losing it!" if that's the honest answer.
She said a lot more, but that's a handful of nuggets that were helpful to me.