A valued part of being a hospice volunteer, their dream specialist, and a member of the hospice team means that there is on-going support and training for the work we do with our patients and families…this end of life experience which is incredibly tender and vulnerable for all.
A recent training was a bit different. The focus shifted from the ones we care for to the caregivers themselves. It was about compassion fatigue, an experience of those in the caring professions where being with human pain and suffering is a core part of one’s job. It is the “the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those who care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time.” It is a kind of secondary traumatization. Our presenter was articulate and helpful. She shared that compassion fatigue is unavoidable and so awareness is needed to notice its onset early and what responses can be helpful and nourishing.
A growing trend in hospitals and care facilities is the establishment of “Code Lavender.” It is where the team knows the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue and can quickly offer support and call a Code Lavender. They initiate the particular offer of help that might be needed in that immediate moment, a stepping away from the scene, an attentive listening, a space for quiet, physical movement. While one can identify their own fatigue rising and ask for help, Code Lavender is proactive. Caregivers are not on their own. The team senses when to step in and intercept the emerging rise of compassion fatigue.
My own spiritual path and dreamwork practice have taught me to be aware of how the inner reflects the outer and vice versa. During the hospice training I couldn’t help but feel how our dreams have their own Code Lavender.
Much of our dream material can be about the places we’re stuck, caught in conditioning and how we’ve learned to be in the world from that place. It is often a very lonely place, void of true relationship and hard to see on our own. Our dreams will bring events and situations to help us gain awareness of this and then we have a choice about continuing or changing.
Then there are those moments where dream figures come to us. They may be warm and loving, they may be familiar outer world figures, they may be outrageous characters. They may say a simple, “How ya doin’?…”Whatcha doin’?…they may say nothing at all…and quietly come and be present in our dream.
These beings know the signs and symptoms of our exhausted spirit. They know where we hurt and why we hurt. They come into our dreams to stop the spin, the momentum of mind that can grip up and to give us the space for something else to arise…the feeling under the spin…the remembering and recognition of who these inner helpers are…
They feel to me our dream’s own Code Lavender.
(Art by Andrea Mazzocchetti)
Mary Jo Heyen is a Natural Dreamwork Practitioner working with clients throughout the country and abroad in person, phone or Skype. Learn more about her work with dreams at www.maryjoheyen.com or www.thenaturaldream.com