Dying can be the loneliest of experiences, even when we are surrounded by our loved ones and family.
Silver Chain’s volunteer chaplains are responsible for accompanying palliative care patients as they approach the end of their lives and their families as they support them.
Jan Boyle has been a volunteer chaplain for Silver Chain for close to 15 years and said a chaplain walks alongside the dying and their families.
“We listen, share, sometimes just sitting empty handed, holding the space with someone as they pour out their love, hope and despair,” Jan said.
“We accompany people on their spiritual journey. Everyone has a spirituality to them. It can be religious, but someone’s spirituality can also come from their interests and passions.
“Our spirituality is what we love most. What makes us smile. What gets our hearts going and what matters most to us.
“As chaplains, we don’t judge and we don’t choose sides. We are a stranger coming into a dying persons house to be a presence and an outlet for them and their family to speak to.
“Having a Chaplain come in, who isn’t connected to the family or involved in their politics usually has a positive impact on the emotional, physical and psychological wellbeing of the dying and their loved ones.
“We let people speak, we listen to their story. A story can be heartbreaking and, at the same time, be lifegiving to the dying and to their family. People die comfortably when they can speak their mind and the opportunity to be honest.
“Chaplains can walk into a home that is overwhelmed by grief, sit down with a cup of tea, have a conversation with a young son or daughter, a husband or wife, listen to the conversation, hold the emotion and allow the tears to fall.
“Family members are often amazed at the stories their loved ones share with me. Because there’s no attachment and no judgement, people feel confident in sharing their honest thoughts.”
All Silver Chain’s chaplains are volunteers and Jan said it takes a special type of person to fulfil the role.
“To be a volunteer chaplain for Silver Chain you need to have compassion, a strong sense of self-awareness and more than anything else, you need a lot of empathy.”
To find out more about Silver Chain’s volunteer chaplain service please call (08) 9242 0242.