Children, Death and Spirituality

My head is spinning since my radio interview this morning with Dr. Sarah Friebert from Akron Children’s Hospital. I was fascinated by our conversation, and I’ll admit, I get a bit choked up thinking back on it.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a spiritual person. I believe everything happens for a reason, and the very reason I do my advocacy work is because I recognized it as my mission after my cancer misdiagnosis. It’s the reason God put me on this earth.

My conversation with Dr. Friebert takes my beliefs to a new level.

Dr. Sarah Friebert is a pediatric hematologist-oncologist who also runs Akron Children’s Hospital’s pediatric palliative care center. Ponder that for a moment. Yes — she spends her days working with children who are dying from cancer and their families.

The conversation was not sad and heavy as you might expect. In fact, I saw it as very uplifting. I cannot fathom losing a child, especially losing a child to a disease that could not be cured. But if I had to, I would want Dr. Friebert to be there to smooth the road.

A few interesting points from our conversation. First, Dr. Friebert was a scientist and doctor long before she believed in the spiritual side of her work. She moved toward spirituality only after observing and (importantly) listening to her patients — young children who were not afraid to talk about their experiences with angels in their rooms, or long-dead relatives they never knew, or imaginary friends no one else can see. Children aren’t afraid to voice their experiences. They haven’t put up the boundaries that society requires. As adults, we’ve learned to keep our mouths shut about those aspects of our beliefs.

Perhaps suprisingly, one part of our conversation was about evidence — the data-driven reasons why hospitals have Spiritual Care departments. Literature abounds showcasing the positive effects of addressing a patient’s spiritual beliefs when s/he is sick, regardless of age or culture.

God put Dr. Friebert on this earth for a very special purpose. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to spend some time with her.

(air date note: Not sure when that will be just yet — mid-April is a guess. Check back here, or sign up for email notices and I’ll alert you. The broadcasts are podcast so no matter where you are, you’ll be able to listen!)

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Trisha Torrey
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