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Mary Egan Publishing, NZ

Thank you, Elisabeth - Print

Thank you, Elisabeth - Print

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Thank you, Elisabeth

By Sue Marsden

Hard cover, 212pp.
ISBN 9780473629571.
Mary Egan Publishing, NZ. (2022).

[Allow 4 weeks]

Early in her career in palliative medicine, the author met Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. This meeting introduced her to the importance of being aware of one’s own emotional issues when working with people who are suffering. As Elisabeth said, “You need to deal with your own [stuff] first”.

Marsden tells stories of people at the end of life who have continued to teach her the importance of self-awareness. With more awareness there is less likelihood of projecting one’s own issues into the situation and less likelihood of developing compassion fatigue or ‘burnout’. It is also more possible to facilitate hope, healing and meaning for the dying.

The other important aspect of caring for the dying is learning how to take enough care of yourself, Marsden says, not just as a healthcare professional but as a human being.

In the book, she writes of an awful knot that would appear in her stomach every time she had to visit the room of a patient named Anna.

“I thought ‘what the hell is this about?’ ... What I realised was seeing Anna lying in this room - it was a four-bed room and she just looked so lonely - was evoking in me the loneliness of my own life.”

Marsden was going through a “very acrimonious” divorce at the time and also carried painful memories of leaving behind her toys and friends in England aged 5, when her family moved to New Zealand.

“Once I’d worked through some of this stuff and realised what this knot was about. I still remember going to Anna’s room … and sitting on her bed and feeling that I could actually create some safety for her or be there for her.

“She looked up at me, sat up and threw her arms around me and said ‘Oh, you look better today!’ From then on, I was able to support her and not have my issues get in the way.”

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