NCCA Fall Meeting

October 2-3, 2019

Caraway Conference Center, Sophia, NC

The fall meeting began with a Board Certification Training by Hadley Kifner, APC/BCCI Area 6 Certification Chair.    Also happening was a fellowship that included refreshments, board and card games.  Some burned the midnight oil in an exciting card game; Some went to bed.

This well attended meeting began with a time of greeting, a devotional, and a welcoming activity.  It was an opportunity to get to know someone new. 

The seminar, Crisis Response Training:  Helping Clergy Respond More Effectively & Compassionately to Survivor-Victims of Trauma, was presented by Chaplain Glenn Davis, Director, First Responder Chaplaincy Program, FaithHealth, Wake Forest Baptist Health.  Continuing Education credits for 4.5 hours were presented for participation in this event.

Chaplain Glenn Davis leads the Fall Education Day

Session 1:  Overview of Trauma and Critical Incident Stress

First responder chaplains help people working in fire, EMS, and law enforcement agencies deal with a variety of health-related challenges.  They have a front row seat at what a life of poor self-care, neglect and stress can do to a person’s physical and mental health and overall quality of life for individuals and their families.  First responder chaplains respond to critical incidents, staff support, education/consultation to churches, workplaces and communities, and community engagement with multiple agencies, organizations, and faith communities.  Their stress can be psychosocial or intrapersonal and delayed or cumulative.  

Chaplain Davis presented the signs of stress for first responders, the dangers and systemic effects of chronic stress, and factors contributing to poor health and shorter lifespans.  These factors include inadequate support systems, negative public perceptions, media scrutiny and toxic work environment lacking in empathy are all strong contributors. 

A Critical Incident was defined as an incident perceived or believed to threaten or potentially threaten the safety of an individual which may induce psychological and/or physical responses or seriously impair life functioning and/or work performance.  These events are sudden, unexpected, disrupt one’s sense of control, makes ordinary means of coping inadequate, restrict normal functioning, the perception of a life-damaging threat, and may be physical and/or emotional loss.  Perception of the event is important.  

The trauma can be life-altering. New trauma can resurrect old trauma. Fundamental values can be negatively impacted.  Reactions can be immediate or delayed.   

Session 2:  Unique Features of Sudden/Traumatic Death (part 1)

Common reactions to trauma include physical, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and spiritual reactions. 

Physical distress reactions are fatigue/exhaustion, nausea/indigestion, vomiting, muscle spasms, chest pain, hyperventilation, elevated BP, tachycardia/bradycardia, thirst, grinding of teeth, weakness, dizziness, psychogenic sweating, chills, fainting, headaches and visual difficulties.

Cognitive distress reactions are blaming, confusion, poor attention/concentration, poor abstract thinking, heightened or lowered alertness, difficulty identifying familiar objects or people, disorientation, nightmares, confusion, sensory distortion, guilt, preoccupation, and inability to understand consequence of behavior.

Emotional distress reactions are anxiety, guilt, grief, denial, mood swings, post-traumatic stress, phobias, fear, uncertainty, loss of emotional control, depression, apprehension, feeling overwhelmed, anger, irritability and agitation.

Behavioral distress reactions present as change in normal activities, change in speech patterns, withdrawal/family discord, excessive eating, hyper-startle reflex, emotional outbursts, antisocial acts, suspiciousness, crying spells, 1000-yard stare, hyper-vigilance, loss or increase of appetite, alcohol or other drug abuse, inability to rest, nonspecific bodily complaints, impulsiveness – risk taking, pacing, erratic movements, sexual dysfunction, compensatory sexuality, sleep disturbance.

Spiritual distress reactions are major changes in one’s assumptive world, perplexing questions about faith & life’s meaning, questioning or doubting God, anger at God or His “representative”, devoutness of faith where none previously existed, existential confusion, soul-searching, difficulty putting the event into context, hopelessness, and withdrawal from faith-based community.

Risks for caregivers and First Responders are rapid role shifts (role assumed one moment can change with one encounter, phone call, text, etc.).  Helping others requires proximity to their suffering.  Over-management of emotions can leave the First Responder numb.  Too little processing time can put them at risk.

Session 3:  Unique Features of Sudden/Traumatic Death (part 2)

Survivor reactions separate them from life.  They experience feeling lost and not knowing what to do, feeling suspended from life, inability to concentrate, indifference to immediate needs, disbelief that the deceased is really dead, feeling that life can never be worth living again, and difficulty managing other ongoing life needs.  The reaction can be more complicated by the suddenness of the death.

In a death notification the chaplain creates a lifelong memory.  It has an immense impact on how the bereaved remember their loss.  Survivors who report being treated compassionately experience less complicated grief.

Session 4:  Re-Victimization & Spiritual Dimension in Crisis Response

There are two fundamental considerations when trying to help:  (1) recognize the need to restore power and control; (2) the helper must prevent self and others from making the crisis worse by inflicting more wounds on those already hurting and vulnerable.  Potential sources of re-victimization are family, friends/colleagues at work, media, law enforcement, the notifier(s), hospital staff, insurance companies, funeral homes, and clergy and faith communities.  

The role of faith in crisis can be the source of strength and comfort, a supportive community, a source of meaning and purpose and provide an answer to eternal questions.   When a person’s faith provides answers to problems, then it is perceived as an asset to cope with the crisis.  Sometimes it is the key sustaining resource.  

When a person’s faith does not provide adequate answers, then it becomes part of the crisis.  The symptoms are feeling abandoned by God, finding it hard to pray, no spirit of thankfulness, hopelessness; joylessness, seeing no value in Scripture, social alienation, resentment that life is business as usual for others, sense of unfairness, life seems futile and symptoms are very pronounced in cases of violent crime.

What people in crisis need:  safety and security, ventilation and validation, prediction and preparation. 

What not to say:

I know how you feel; I understand.

He’s better off; He’s in a better place & happier now.

She led a good, full life.

At least you’re alive or you are lucky to be alive, etc.

God never gives us more than we can stand.

It’s God’s will.

God needed an angel.

He/she has….gone to sleep, passed, expired, left us, etc.

Don’t cry, everything is going to be ok.

You’re so strong; you’re such an inspiration!

Just think of the others you will be able to help!

You shouldn’t feel that way; you should be over it by now.

You must get on with your life.

Time heals all wounds.

You need to go on vacation, etc.

You just need to meet someone!

What to say to survivor-victims following death or major trauma

I’m sorry it happened.

I cannot know (or understand) what you’re feeling but I care.

This must be awful for you.

Will you let me help you? 

You are safe now.  (If this is true.)

How are you doing now?

It’s ok to cry.  (Timing is important; saying this prematurely can shutdown emotions.)

It’s normal to be angry.

You must have loved ______ so much.  (Mention the loved one’s name.)

Tell me about _______.  (This can be an opportunity to share history and invite trust; encourages story-telling.)

He/she meant so much to me.  (If you knew the deceased and have been personally impacted by the death.

It wasn’t your fault.  (If you know this to be true.)

Your reactions are normal; the event is abnormal.  

You are not going crazy. (Many survivors fear the loss of control.)

It’s ok to not have to talk.  (Be an advocate if others try to make survivors talk.)

It will never be the same, but you can get better.  (An affirmative response to survivor’s anxiety about the future.)

I’m willing to be with you through this.  (Intense fears of abandonment & exploitation are common with many survivors.)

I’m praying for you.  (Infuses hope and raises awareness of other spiritual resources)

“Let’s stay in contact.”  (When your physical presence is no longer needed, when other support has arrived.)

Chaplain David concluded his excellent seminar with the definition of wellness.  Wellness is a positive approach to life incorporating physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual aspects with the potential to improve quality of life and result in increased health, happiness, and productivity.”

The day concluded with an opportunity to remember those who have passed.  This Memorial Service was focused on helping us lay aside our losses and remember to be thankful for our gifts. 

The next North Carolina Chaplains’ Association Spring Education Day will be on April 30, 2020 at Camp Dogwood, Sherrills Ford, NC.  Dana Trent will present “End of Life Care as Professional Chaplains”.  Dana will reflect on how those in the professional practice of spiritual care provide meaning to the journey toward end of life to patients and families.  Each attendee will receive a copy of her recently released book, Desserts First:  Preparing for Death While Savoring Life.  

Overnight options for those wishing to participate in ‘The Exchange’ Small Group offerings and other fellowship opportunities will be available on the website:

Registration will be open in December 2019.  

Category: Uncategorized · Tags:

Comments are closed.