Recognizing social workers everywhere, especially those near and dear
“Sitting with people in their darkness, you have to know your own darkness. I hope to always be a social worker in that capacity,” said Ami Gorsky, LCSW.
Gorsky said high school was nothing more than a social scene for her and being a socialite was far more important than her GPA. It wasn’t until she found herself in college, still uncertain of her future, that she decided to take intro to social work, changing her life forever. “From that moment on I was hooked,” referring to her education and becoming a social worker.
After completing her bachelor’s degree, Gorsky said she was still uncertain of what exactly she was going to do as a social worker; she was hired on with a hospice organization as a bereavement counselor. “I often wondered, ‘Why am I counseling people when I haven’t experienced a loss myself?’”
She was four years in to her job, offering bereavement support to those experiencing grief from a loss, when she was told that the baby she was carrying would not be conducive to life. “Once she was born, there was going to be nothing I could do to save her,” Gorsky recalled the life-shattering words she was told. She delivered Mattison on February 25, 1999. The sweet baby girl Ami delivered lived longer than what was expected; she passed away on March 23rd.
“I was so angry that I had a terminally ill child.” Gorsky said it took her about five years, but then she realized: “God chose me to have a terminally ill child; he chose me to be her mom. I am so humbled. I am honored.”
Mattison’s death changed Ami, not only as a person, but as a social worker. “You don’t have to have lost a child to have suffered a loss and deal with grief. It can be death, it can be divorce, bankruptcy, cancer...” She said whatever loss that person is experiencing is a great loss.
Through the years, Ami got her master’s degree in social work and became licensed. She left bereavement and became a psych liaison at a local hospital. She said it was there that she gained mental health experience. “I see a lot of addiction and mental illness in the ER. This is the worst day of their lives. Many people think they aren’t worth the energy; they are devalued.” She said she treats them the same way that she would if she were offering bereavement support. She lets them know: “I see you,” that they matter, they’re important and she listens. She said if you listen, you will find what is paralyzing a person. “In the hospital I’m there for the crisis; I then have to get them with the right resources.”
Today, while still working PRN as a psych liaison, she is an oncology social worker at a local cancer center. She said the people she offers support to don’t choose to see her, but they need/want emotional support. “Cancer is a loss. You don’t have to die from cancer to experience a loss.”
She offers a support group to her patients, teaching resilient gratitude. “It would be so much easier to complain; instead, find joy in something every day, choose gratitude. Your feelings are your feelings, rather it’s anger, disappointment, sadness...” She said how you choose to deal with it makes all the difference. We are in charge of our own happiness.
She’s learned that you can never say never or that wouldn’t happen to me. In her office she displays a plaque that says: Everyone has a story to tell. “Kindness is a priority. Treat everyone, even those who don’t deserve it, with kindness. I always say, I wish people dealing with a loss could have a bright neon sign over their heads. People just never know what someone else is dealing with.”
She tells new social workers, just starting out, to find a position that will allow them to meet an eclectic group of people and then “shut your mouth” and learn from these people. She said they need to know their resources, should volunteer somewhere, get to know the culture, and most of all, always know that they can’t be all to all.
Mattison’s death turned Ami’s question mark into an exclamation mark. She started the Walk to Remember, a yearly event held for women who have experienced a pregnancy or infant loss. Policy and procedures have been created at local hospitals and hospices for those who have experienced a loss or are dealing with a terminal infant.
“What an amazing thing! She taught me that I will see the light again. She’s made me a better human being. A better mother. A better friend. I choose gratitude. Loving is worth losing.”
Gina (Paradiso) Cathcart is the director of CareCorner, LTD, Colorado Respite Care. She is a healthcare educator, passionate about service to others and quality patient care. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.