Archive for August, 2011

Stop and Listen

Photo by Peter Kaminski from Flickr


When friends or family members approach us with a problem they are facing, one of our first reactions is to start talking right away. We either start spitting out phrases of love and support or we start giving advice. Although this is a common reaction coming from a good place inside ourselves, it’s not always the appropriate reaction. We need to stop and listen to our loved ones.

When someone comes to us with a problem, our first instinct is to make the person feel better right away with a loving or supportive comment. While this seems like the correct thing to do, we do not realize we’re not listening completely. The wheels in our brain are turning to find the right thing to say instead of listening to every word and emotion our friend is expressing.

One good way to start being a better listener is to eliminate all distractions while a friend confides in you. Choose a quite setting such as a living room or dining room. Make sure the TV is completely off along with other electronics. Turn your phone on silent and allow no extra guests or pets in the room. Be sure to face your friend and make eye contact unless that makes him or her uncomfortable.

Sometimes, our body language can mean more than our words. Feed off the energy your friends present and let your actions follow respectively. Lean in to show you’re listening if you’re loved one is speaking softly. Pat the back of their hand if they seem hesitant to share their feelings. Showing your loved ones that they have your undivided attention means more than saying they have your undivided attention.

Remain calm by taking deep breaths and focusing on the person. Sometimes our loved ones can drop a bombshell on us and our mind races into panic mode. When that happens, our thoughts become hazy and the loved one no longer has our undivided attention. If bad news breaks, repeat in your head, “I’ll worry about that later—what is my friend saying right now?” Having this calming presence will help your loved ones feel safe and composed.

Listening is a skill that takes much practice. Having a busy agenda can make people forget how to listen effectively. Remember to practice this skill with the people in your life in everyday situations. Ask friends to tell you about their weekend. Do not speak until they are completely finished, and then see what all you can repeat back. This fun exercise can help sharpen your listening skills and prepare you for when listening matters the most.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

What Does Hospice Mean to a 23-year-old?

Garden at Houston Hospice

I started working at Houston Hospice about a month ago. When I told my friends that I was interviewing for the position available here, their first reaction was, “You want to work at a hospice!? That sounds depressing.” For me to say that I didn’t think the same thing would be a lie. I had no idea what to expect because I’ve never been to a hospice before. I was familiar with death after losing many close friends and relatives, but I wasn’t used to death being accepted and peaceful.


A few years ago my grandpa died after fighting many years of being sick. He was over 90-years-old, had both legs amputated, and died weighing about 80 pounds in a nursing home bed. I’ve always struggled with this and wondered why we were trying to keep him alive. When he would be in hospital, he would talk to his mother, his father and siblings as if they were in the room. My grandma had passed away a year before and he seemed ready to be with her. The nursing home he stayed in was horribly depressing and it was hard for me to visit him.


Everyday at work, I wish my grandpa could have died in a place like this. The calm energy, the painted rooms and the warm staff would have made such a difference for my family and me. Working at a hospice has made me realize that death can be a peaceful process and not to fear it.


No 23-year-old wants to think about the possibility of dying because we feel our lives have just started. But when we can accept death and not fear it, then living is more valuable to us and the important things in life become apparent. Family and friends are put before money and possessions and the simple things rule over the extravagant things.


Working at a hospice is far from depressing—it’s an eye opener. Everyday you see bravery, love and peace. I feel lucky to witness these actions daily and to no longer fear death. And in a hectic world, it’s nice to see human compassion every day.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

ABC’s Beyond Belief, The Other Side

Wednesday night ABC aired an episode called The Other Side from their new summer series Primetime Nightline: Beyond Belief. In this episode, ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff interviewed people who have died and then come back to life. Woodruff has been curious about this topic since his own near-death experience in Iraq in 2006.


One of the most interesting parts of this episode was that three of the people Woodruff interviewed were from the Houston area. I thought this was interesting and their stories hit closer to home for me. Three of these hair-raising stories were from not only Americans, but Houstonians.


Woodruff interviewed people such as Rev. Don Piper of Pasadena from Pasadena who died for an hour and a half after a head on collision with an 18-wheeler in 1989. Piper wrote a book about his experience in heaven called 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life.


Other people interviewed from the Houston area included Erin Smith from Montgomery who was shot at age 17 and Houston therapist Mary Jo Rapini who suffered a brain aneurysm. Rapini has written a book called Is God Pink? Dying to Heal after she experienced a pinkish glow and heard God’s voice in her death experience.


Hearing these people’s stories was very touching and personal. Currently, I work at a hospice and death occurs almost every day. To hear stories from others who have witnessed peace after death is comforting for me. I’m sure this episode helped family members and close friends who have lost a loved one and are grieving. You can watch the full episode right here.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter