Diane Roche


Intensive Care Unit Chaplain, Royal North Shore Hospital, Australia

May the gentleness of the water
soften the tensions within us.
May the wisdom of the earth
open us to mystery.
May the simplicity of air
capture our hearts.
May the flame of the Spirit
give us hope, courage
and strength
as we continue on our pilgrim way.

–Celtic Blessing

In times of grief, we often hear the expression ‘words are inadequate’ to convey sorrow, sympathy or comfort to a bereaved family member or friend. In fact, words can sometimes be intrusive and actually hinder helping the bereaved.

In the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where I work, I am in the presence of dying and death each day. Very early on I learnt to be cautious with words and usually I say very little to the family of the dying patient during their bedside vigil. Instead, I do what I can, along with the nurse, to enable the patient and family to have as much privacy and intimacy as possible, in the midst of the often frenetic and noisy activity of the acute clinical environment.

Then there are those times when words are just right. The author of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3, ‘To every thing there is a season,’ left us with the timeless advice ‘A time to be silent and a time to speak.’

Not long ago in my own moment of intense almost destabilizing grief, I experienced profound comfort and stability from the words of this Celtic blessing. My younger brother Damian had died very suddenly and we, his family still in the haze of shock and disbelief, stood together as his Requiem Mass was concluding. The priest then turned towards us and spoke this beautiful Celtic blessing. The words comforted me then and they comfort me still.

Di Roche has been Chaplain to the Intensive Care Unit of the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney for the past 18 years. The Unit provides treatment and care for patients who are suffering life threatening illnesses and critical injuries from Sydney and New South Wales. As part of the multi-disciplinary team, Di’s role is to offer spiritual and emotional support to the patients, their families and to the staff.