Almost five years ago I took a big leap and changed jobs. After interning and then four years working as a hospice social worker, I was ready for something different. My heart was and will always be with hospice work, but I wanted to learn something new.
When you work with hospice patients and their family members, you are working with the culmination of every other moment that happened in their lives before. And for the time I spent educating on the dying process or final arrangements, often more of my time was spent on stressors that may seemingly have nothing to do with end of life, except that through the lens of end of life everything else, every other stress is amplified. There were family dynamics and unhelpful coping strategies, often born out of histories of abuse, addiction, loss or trauma. There were fears and shame because society tends to reject thoughts of death and expressions of grief or other difficult emotions. There was turmoil caused by misinformation. There were heartbreaking and immoral situations born out of systemic injustices.
Each day I saw these stories repeated. And each day I wondered what these people’s experiences of end of life and loss could have been had they been afforded greater justice, opportunity, helpful support, or the right messages and information earlier on in their lives.
When considering a job change, I knew that I wanted to experience a system that was proactive and innovative in thinking. Welcome to the SAS Work/Life Center.
This job is a dream. Our team of five is constantly thinking of how we can best bring helpful and proactive information to employees and their families regarding any and all topics of life. We are driven by the needs of those we work with and have the flexibility and trust to address them as needed.
It might look like this: One morning I’m approached by an employee dealing with a particularly hard situation. I send a few emails and by that afternoon I have a list of others in the same situation who are interested in receiving support too. By late afternoon, I have a support group scheduled. That is a social worker’s dream.
But that dream isn’t realized unless the employees and families of SAS buy-in. And they do. Our jobs are only possible because of your readiness to learn, your willingness to seek support and to offer support to others. It’s not surprising because SAS is a place of innovators and curious minds. You want good for the world and for your own lives and families too.
When I see employees checking out children’s books from our library - books that talk about feelings, differences, and that it’s ok to make mistakes - my heart is warmed because I imagine these are planting seeds to a good life. When I see parents attending Lisa and Page’s parenting classes, I imagine that the tools learned are going to influence those children/tweens/teens for the rest of their lives as well as their families and their future families. When I see caregivers attending Kim’s support groups, I imagine that the self-care they are practicing now will help to buffer the pain of such a marathon-like, taxing situation. When we meet individually with people for consults, I appreciate their trusting us. It’s not lost on me that their experience of interacting with us can inform their willingness to seek support in future situations. When I gather with Young Professionals to talk about stress, imposter syndrome, or relationships, I feel a small win every time one person can see themselves in the shared experiences of another.
I can’t help but look at everything through an end-of-life-lens. That might sound morbid but I think of it as purposeful. Because end of life simply means the culmination of life. Life is full of challenges. To both cope and thrive, we need to create and maintain space for joy, learning, grit, kindness and empathy. Everyone deserves that space. I am so grateful to be part of a team that wants to create that space for others. And even more grateful for the employees and families stepping into that space every day.