When things are hard and you are faced with adversity, how do you decide what to do? Our basic instincts tell us to flee from uncomfortable situations, so does that mean we are crazy when we choose to stay?
This is a question that I have contemplated over the last few weeks. The simple truth is that dealing with the impact of an abused and neglected child is difficult, and often ugly. As someone that has no background in social work or therapy, I have found stories to be quite shocking at times. Some days I go home carrying a little more weight than I came with, so I started to wonder: If this is something that I struggle with, surely I am not alone?
CASA volunteers are unique to a case because they have an unbiased opinion; they come from all walks of life, which is really beneficial to our program. Looking at a situation with a fresh pair of eyes can often be pivotal in a case, and that is something that we celebrate. The flip side is that volunteers have no idea what they are walking into and their only defense mechanism is their undying love and their need to help in whatever way they can. In that way, we are one and the same.
To combat this heaviness on my heart I reached out to some of the wonderful coworkers that I get to call friends and asked for advice on coping with some of the difficult cases that I hear. They came up with a list that I think will really help anyone not used to carrying extra heartache around. Here are 5 tips from Emily Jones, Crisis Coordinator at the Center for Children and Families:
1. Find a trusted/ safe person you can vent to.
It is so important to be able to let your feelings out and not keep them bottled up. For you this person may be a spouse, coworker, best friend or even your CASA supervisor. Whoever he/she is, tell them what you are feeling, just remember to keep things confidential and not give any specifics about your cases.
2. Whatever ritual you have that calms you… Do it
For me this looks like classical music, a cup of coffee and a good book. Maybe for you it is a long walk, a bubble bath, or Netflix binge. Whatever it is, make sure to schedule time for it, self-care is important.
3. Stay ahead of it.
Sometimes things have a way of sneaking up on you suddenly. Be sure to prepare for this by actively seeking opportunities to pour into yourself before you really need it.
4. Educate yourself.
Pretending like bad things don’t happen will in no way help you to cope with hardships. In fact, hiding from the darkness will often only make things worse. In-service training is a great way to learn new things with trusted people.
5. Do something about it.
Emily Jones says, “The best way to cope is to get outside yourself and do something so that you can at least say, ‘I’ve played my part’”. As a CASA you are already taking great strides in this area.
I was relieved to hear this list and these things are very manageable. Like you, I have compassion for these children and a desire to do my part to help. I am continually amazed by the work that you all do day in and day out. If anything, you are motivators for me to lean on in hard times. When I would like nothing more than to run away to my office and close the door, to pretend that bad things really don’t happen to the those poor babies; I am encouraged by your bravery to CHOOSE to stay and fight.
Maybe we are crazy for choosing to help the innocent, but I sleep better at night knowing that these children have a fighting chance in this uncertain life because they have people like you standing next to them.
Kudos to you, CASA.