No rest for the caring

Published: Monday, July 1 2013 8:25 p.m. MDT

Posada said in high-stress situations, it's important for organizations to be honest with their employees and allow space for emotional care. "For me it's about having that upfront conversation about how this can affect you," said Posada. "It's very addictive because you know your work is really important and it's really hard to step away and say, 'I can only do this work well if I take the time for myself.’ ”

Catholic Relief Services, for example, required its workers in Afghanistan to leave the country every few months for a brief respite, a practice Posada said helped tremendously.

Sharing stories

Despite Elliot's "dark and difficult" time, she decided to stay — and stayed for two years.

"I decided I (wanted to) get better and make some useful contribution to Afghanistan," said Elliot, "to learn a lot about myself and how to be among suffering without being overwhelmed by it."

Elliot left Afghanistan in 2009, but part of the motivation for leaving was to share the stories.

"(An Afghan colleague) told me, your job is never finished. Part of your job is to tell the stories you've seen and been part of here," Elliot said. That was her motivation to write the book.

"I think her book is going to be great conversation starter for humanitarians," Posada said. "First and foremost we need to have our hearts with Afghans, folks who are living there, who are leading full and wonderful lives but who also don't have the ability we have to leave that violence behind."

"For me that's really been the struggle: how do I keep that compassion at the core (while still taking care of myself)? How to keep that compassion alive in a healthy way is really the critical work. (Elliot) has struggled with these questions so intensely, and thorugh her writing and other ways has figured out a way that works really well for her and hopefully for other people as well."

EMAIL: kbennion@deseretnews.com

TWITTER: katebennion

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