A Hand to Hold: Love Languages From a Hospice Social Worker

Picture it—an 85-year-old grandmother with end-stage heart failure, a 36-year-old dad with terminal cancer, a 10-year-old son who has run out of medical interventions, a 2-week old daughter born with a heart that won’t function properly, and a 98-year-old grandfather with end-stage Alzheimer’s. On any given week, as a hospice social worker, I would visit individuals who have walked different paths of life for different lengths of time.

Everyone had a story to tell, and everyone had a legacy to leave. Each person who I visited had a different past, different spiritual beliefs, and different end-of-life wishes. I witnessed some remarkable things in my time with hospice, but what I value most are the lessons I learned along the way. I am a believer that we all have our preferred “love language” and I find these to hold true all the way until a person’s final breath. Here are a few end-of-life love languages I found to be true.

Quality Timean old clock sits on the ground

We all want to be heard and this remains true at the end of life. People want to share their stories, their wisdom, and their mistakes. They want to share the things they are proud of, and especially the PEOPLE they are proud of. Even those that couldn’t tell their own story often had a spouse, child, or relative tell their story for them. Hospice validated something I knew to be true—the gift of time is invaluable.

Sometimes, just sitting with someone and saying nothing was all a person needed. Other times, it was reading to them, playing their favorite music, looking through old pictures, praying with them, helping them decide on funeral arrangements (I see you, acts of service), or having a family all come together on behalf of the person’s last wishes.  What is the lesson here? Let us all use our time wisely.

Let us be intentional and purposeful with those we surround ourselves with. And let us all remember that sometimes all a person needs is a listening ear or a shoulder to quietly lean on.

chalk drawing that says "Be Kind"Words of Affirmation

Witnessing someone during their last days, hours, and minutes of life is one of my most remarkable experiences. It can be heartbreaking, but it can also be beautiful. There’s something to be said about being so close to someone who is moments away from crossing over to the next chapter (whatever you believe that chapter to be). Though I can’t say this with absolute certainty, my time in the field taught me that those approaching that transition period of life can hear the words being spoken to them. The lesson?

Let us let go of pain and resentment and speak to others and about others as if they can always hear our words. Let us be kind with our words, now and forever.

Physical Touchwoman's hands hold those of a man who is in hospice

As a hospice social worker, I held enough hands and rubbed enough arms in the final days of life to know that this love language is just as important as the first two. I’ve seen tears of joy at the simple act of holding someone’s hand or offering a hug to the spouse who can’t imagine life without their sweetheart of fifty years. Small, simple acts of touch offer a level of calmness and empathy in those hard moments. What is there to be learned here? It doesn’t take a grand gesture to show people you care and to show that you are supportive.

Let us all let our guard down more often and offer a hug or a handhold or merely a pat on the back. Let us not forget that the warmth of someone else is a gift.

Let us all remember that we matter, that what we do matters, that who we love now until forever.  


 

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Becca is a small-town {and likely barefoot} Louisiana girl who’s journey to Texas was unexpected to say the least. After getting her Masters in Social Work from LSU, she spent a few years working in mental health before she found her true social work love in hospice care. Not long after getting hitched to the best guy she knows, Becca and her husband welcomed their full of life red headed son {2018} and they now refer to themselves as “the big 3”! Fast forward to early 2021 when Becca was diagnosed with something that changed their lives forever and so, they picked up and headed west. What was supposed to be a short time in Houston for these small-town folks turned into a big city romance, a mortgage, some unexpected friendships, and a few opportunities to grow. Some might say Becca tends to err on the side of sarcasm and stubbornness. But those same people would also say that Becca is brave and compassionate. She’s a straight shooter, a little bit crunchy, and a lover of all things love. When she’s not building forts or playing pretend, you can find Becca roaming the isles at the grocery store, cooking for hours, or snuggled up with a good book. Follow her journey on Instagram at @thisblissfulpursuit.

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi Becca, thank you for sharing this. When our hour comes, the people around us are all we’ve got. Life really is too short to hang on to anger and pride. To love and be loved, that’s all we want…but we sometimes complicate it.

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