By Ruth Palomino, Counsellor, VERITA Life, Mexico.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, suffering, struggle, loss and have found a way out of the depths”.
Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
My work as a psychologist, with a specialty in Thanatology, is to accompany the patient and their family members throughout the oncological process.
My main objective is to improve the quality of life of the patient by advising and providing strategies and resources to face the many difficulties that arise during treatment. This includes working on communication skills and specific techniques to regulate anxiety, the support and management of emotions, as well as other techniques to help the patient and their families assimilate what is happening to them.
Most importantly, the role of any psychologist throughout therapy is to foster in the patient and their family an ability to identify emotions and motivate self-care.
Despite the emotional pain that bereavement brings, it is a natural process in the life of the human being and there is no person who has not experienced it.
For cancer patients, the loss of health is often one of the most devastating and tragic experiences in life; but paradoxically, this event can also lead the patient “to the discovery of themselves”.
The Stages of Mourning
Renowned Swiss-American psychiatrist. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, carried out studies with a number of patients, who were all in the process of mourning. Through this, she theorised that mourning could be divided into 5 distinct stages, while insisting that the grieving process should not be seen as linear and rigid.
Denial is often the first reaction to loss and can also be described as a state of shock, associated with feelings of frustration and impotence. Anger follows, with frustration that and typical of the inability to modify the event cannot be modified and ‘why me’? Negotiation or bargaining occurs when the patient or their family tries to trade off events in order to avoid feelings of grief. For example, ‘if I can just make it to Christmas’, or ‘my child’s birthday’ . Depression is the fourth stage with feelings of sadness and hopelessness along with other symptoms, such as social isolation and lack of motivation. Finally, the acceptance phase is defined as a state of calm that comes with the understanding of what is happening to us.
In grief counselling, when we talk about acceptance, we do not mean a pathetic acceptance, where only a tragic outcome is expected. Rather, we call it ‘acceptance with a purpose’.
Many ask, ‘but how can we accept the things that cause us so much pain?
Dr. Viktor Frankl, a survivor of Nazi concentration camps and creator of Logotherapy, refers to it as so:
Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Viktor Frankl, 1946.
Acceptance is a magical key that leads to another perspective, which can be enriching and further provide inner growth and a feeling of peacefulness.
Combining Psychology in Cancer Treatments
Throughout my practice, I often combine psychology with other practises such as Mindfulness, Art Therapy, Relaxation Techniques, Aromatherapy and Logotherapy, which applied together can be of great help to patients throughout treatment and beyond.
To learn more about Verita Life or to get in touch, contact us here.