What is an Exquisite Witness in Pastoral Care?
In Pastoral Care, one crosses the line of just merely a provider but also a spiritual friend. A friend who is there to comfort and reassure the spiritual and emotional element of a patient. An Exquisite Witness is one who personifies this element of care of the dying.
From a defintion, an Exquisite Witness is a ”health care, pastoral, or volunteer care provider who enters the sacred space between two human souls-having the deepest respect for the yearning, seeking, and wishful hopes of the other to diminish the pain and survive in a new world after a loss.”
Beyond this, an Exquisite Witness is not judged by training but one’s willingness to care for other people and treat them with respect as they face the unknown of death. St. Theresa of Calcutta comes to mind when one thinks of someone with such deep sancity and care for the sick.
Ultimately when it comes to witnessing, it is jouney where one does not pretend to have all the answers or cures but instead takes the time to sojourn with someone-to listen, observe and follow.
In Pastoral Care Giving, a witness also enters into three dimensions of care. The first is the heart dimension. Within the heart dimension, one finds the process of how old personal losses rise to mind when dealing with someone else’s current losses. Sometimes these memories can affect the caregivers ability to properly witness. The old memory haunts them so they avoid the current patient, or the old memory prevents the caregiver from focusing on the current pain of an indiviudal. Caregivers must address the heart dimension of caregiving if they wish to properly care for the sick and dying
The second dimension is the head dimension. This dimension is one’s knowledge of what grief is and how it applies to certain cases. One’s experience and education are key elements to the head dimension.
Finally, the third dimension is the hands dimension. This represents how the care provider acts and performs his or her duties for the patient. It represents how the witness engages the grieving during their process of mourning.
These three dimensions are key to what we call an Exquisite Witness. Hopefully as care givers we can all utilize our talents, as Mother Theresa, and help the dying find peace and solitude.
If you are interested in Pastoral Thanatology, please review the program.
(Information for this article was found in “Helping Grieving People-When Tears Are Not Enough” by J. Shep Jeffreys.)
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C