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Passionate care cannot be provided alone

By James Buchok

12/13/2017

WINNIPEG — Passionate care for the dying and the bereaved can’t be provided by just one person, says a hospital spiritual care director, and those providing that care need the help of family, friends and their faith.

“I meditate daily, I pray, I seek out experiences in nature, play music and feel the love from family, friends and co-workers. I cannot provide passionate care alone,” said Rick Benson, director of Spiritual and Religious Care and Grief Recovery Specialist at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Saint John, N.B. Benson recently published a book about his experiences as a caregiver: My Chaos: Searching For My New Normal.

“The title was not chosen to be catchy or cute,” Benson said. “It comes from thousands of interactions I have had with people seeking support. Each word in the title holds significance. ‘My’ recognizes that people live with their experiences in the deepest part of their being. ‘Chaos’ most often comes from variables or influences beyond one’s control.”

In the book, Benson shares evidence-based interventions, stories, and images to help readers cope with loss, grief, and life transitions, something he has done for the past 11 years with patients at St Joseph’s Hospital. Benson’s hope is to help people cope with life transitions and loss.

“The book is not just for those who have experienced death; it is much broader than that,” said Benson. He started the book two years ago as a handout for patients and families dealing with loss. “The interventions and suggestions and stories help people who are experiencing the loss directly and those who are helping. If you have a cancer or dementia diagnosis your life has changed. If you have a break-up or lose a job, how do you cope?”

Benson attended St. John Brébeuf School and St. Paul’s High School in Winnipeg, where he lived out his Jesuit education, receiving the Gold Medal for leadership in his graduating year, 1975. During high school and after graduation Benson was involved at St. Amant Centre, a resource for Manitobans with developmental disabilities, and the local L’Arche community.

He moved to Atlantic Canada after spending a few years in L’Arche. He has held various leadership positions in education and health care, doing his best to follow the principles of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and the Jesuit model of being One for Others.

Benson attended St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., and in 2015 received the university’s Alumni Service Award. He has worked as a youth minister with the Calgary Catholic School Board, served as dean of Students at St. Francis Xavier University, and is a former National Co-ordinator/National Chaplain of Canadian Catholic Campus Ministry.

My Chaos: Searching For My New Normal was launched in Saint John in October and Benson is planning a Winnipeg launch within the next few months. The book is available from Chapters, Indigo, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and rickcbenson.com.

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