I wonder if I might be able to share with you something that’s been close to my heart over the last few months: Compassion Fatigue. Some of you might not be familiar with the term, but I’m certain you’re familiar with it either because you’ve experienced it yourself or seen it in a colleague.
In the article, “Strategies for Recognizing and Avoiding Compassion Fatigue”, they define Compassion Fatigue as:
“A state of exhaustion and dysfunction, biologically, physiologically, emotionally, (or spiritually) as a result of prolonged exposure to compassion stress”. Or the ‘cost of caring’ for others in emotional and physical pain.”
During the Summer of 2017, I lost my best friend as a result of a stroke. I poured my heart into his family, mutual friends and co-workers. But something was missing, I just didn’t feel present. I’d wondered what was happening to me. I couldn’t place a finger on it. I went to work daily, served our veterans by meeting their spiritual needs but I wasn’t “happy”. I didn’t feel the joy that I so compassionately spoke of. I was a robot. Whether it was a close friend, family, veteran, co-worker I simply did not feel my usual level of empathy that I have for them, and it had been going on for months. I began to even harbor emotions of guilt because internally I was questioning if I truly cared. An angel sent me an article on Compassion Fatigue and after reading, I knew this was me. I learned that “the most insidious aspect of compassion fatigue is that it attacks the very core of what brought us into this work: our empathy and compassion for others.” (Francoise Mathieu, M.Ed., CCC)
Ladies and Gentleman, we cannot afford to not take care of ourselves. There is a world that has been placed in our hands to make better. I love this charge that is upon my life just as you do. So let’s take time, to care, share, encourage each other that the faith in which we share with others is the same faith that is available to us. It works both when we extend it as well as when WE need it.
Just a little something from my heart… Be Blessed!
Chaplain, Calvet Home of West Los Angeles