Closing Remarks and Why Being Emotional is OK
Yes, I lost it when Steve Salee and I delivered closing remarks on Day One of the Overcoming Compassion Fatigue Conference at Rutgers earlier this month.
Just before our session, I was inspired to make some additions to my opening remarks , thinking that it would be a nice touch to mention my mother (a nurse) and my father (who had been so lovingly cared for by hospice nurses at the end of his life).
I wanted to start the session by thanking them for the care my father had received but I could barely get the words out, I was very teary, and my voice was so shaky. I hadn’t expected this reaction – my father died almost 25 years ago. Steve, bless his soul, stepped in while I collected myself. After a few deep breaths, everything went smoothly and we had a highly interactive session focused on how these fierce professional care givers could build and implement their own self-care plans to strengthen their personal resiliency and health.
I’m normally a very confident public speaker and I was embarrassed by this lack of professionalism. Yet, the more I thought about it and talked about it, the more comfortable I felt with my emotional display. This was such a kind crowd, and a crowd that deals with heavy emotions and vulnerabilities every day. Also, my emotions came from such a strong place of gratitude for what this community of care givers provides to the ill and dying, and their families. And what’s wrong with a little emotion? Where in the rulebook does it say that public speakers can’t be fully human, even if that involves deep emotions being expressed.
To spend a day with 100+ social workers and palliative care nurses and doctors who work with the elderly, trauma victims, and the dying of all ages was both an honor and a humbling experience. My emotions in the closing session were a reflection of what they face on a daily basis, and why we owe them so much gratitude and respect.