Social Work Practice With Families: Summary of the Legacy of Loss
Regardless of self-awareness, self-care, and support, witnessing suffering on a regular basis can be overwhelming. Arbore, Katz, and Johnson note that “being present to suffering on a daily basis places huge demands on our psyches, our souls, and our very being.” Eric Cassel, a physician, wrote a definitive article on suffering that has guided many professional interventions. He defined suffering as the “state of severe distress associated with events that threaten the intactness of the person”, and described suffering and its impact in broad terms. Cassel acknowledged that suffering is ultimately a personal matter, even though one can suffer enormously at the distress of another person. Although it is accurate that suffering usually is linked with physical pain and related symptoms, it goes much further. Suffering affects personal relationships, personal performance, personal transcendence or meaning, even one’s personhood.
These changes frequently lead to stressful conditions as the child faces new constraints and demands.
Allying with the patient and the family should be a top priority for the social worker who has gotten to know and understand the patient and family and is, therefore, in a position to advocate for the patient and family’s decisions. If there is conflict within the family, the social worker can hold a family conference to reiterate the patient’s wishes and plans.
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