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Posts from the ‘Grief and Loss’ Category

That sticky ‘stage theory’ of grief

By Leanne Billiau

“Every one can master a grief but he that has it.”
-William Shakespeare

This week we re-post one of the most talked-about posts from the Caring with Confidence archives. 

Those of us who are passionate about hospice admire the ground-breaking work of Swiss American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She was part of the hospice movement and her work with the dying put the topics of death and grief on the table for many. Even though she studied people who were dying and the emotional impact of getting that kind of traumatic news, her theory is prevalent in pop culture as “The Five Stages of Grief”.

It is in our nature to try and make sense of our world. We attempt to create order out of chaos, and the world can feel very chaotic and out of control for those who are grieving. Read more

Grieving: Landmarks and milestones

By Leanne Billiau

Change does not come all at once, as we sometimes wish it would.  Instead, it happens in small bits and pieces, over time.  This is why it can be difficult to recognize the progress you are making along your grief journey.

Mrs. S had been married to her husband for 47 years and had always referred to him as her anchor.  When he died she said she felt lost at sea, drifting aimlessly.  She wanted to know where the landmarks were and how she would recognize the milestones on what she was afraid would be a long and perilous journey through grief. Read more

What a shame… (The shame of grief in hospice)

by Leanne Billiau

“Have patience with all the world, but first of all with yourself.”

-Francis DeSales

Shame is not a topic we often speak about in any context, but it is there none the less. We have all felt shame, but it remains somewhat taboo in our North American culture. Like death and grief, it is a common human experience that rarely hits the light of day.  It is tucked away in the dark recesses and all too often we try to keep it there by any means necessary.

The words shame and guilt are sometimes used interchangeably, and while they can certainly co-exist, shame goes deeper than guilt.  Guilt is a feeling focused on behavior and shame is a feeling focused on the self. Read more

The discipline of mindfulness in hospice caregiving

By Ron King

Mindfulness is the practice of giving full attention to the present moment, becoming aware of all circumstances and resources in any given time and place. To be mindful does not mean analyzing, interpreting, evaluating or planning. It is simply pausing to breathe, being at rest, stopping to look and listen to what is around you. Read more

A New Year, a new beginning…even for those caring for those in hospice

By Terre Mirsch

Tonight marks the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013.  January 1 represents a fresh start of a new year.  The New Year holiday, as with others, holds several long-established traditions.  We typically bring in the New Year with a champagne toast, as the popular tune Auld Lang Syne plays and fireworks explode in the background.  New Year’s Day often includes a holiday dinner of traditional foods believed to bring good luck for the coming year.

The beginning of the New Year is also a time to remember the biggest moments of 2012–the triumphs and the tragedies that shaped our year and changed our world.  For many, 2012 was a difficult year.  Perhaps serious illness impacted one’s life and the rigors of caregiving made 2012 a physical and emotional challenge.  Or maybe the loss of a loved one changed life forever and it is hard to imagine bringing in the New Year without this significant person being part of it. Read more

Finding meaning in the last day of life…

by Valerie Hartman

This holiday season, as our own hospice team makes visits in our community, we are particularly attentive to families losing loved ones on or near the actual date of a holiday.

Hospice workers carry a humble respect for the feelings that come with holiday loss.

Whether death occurs on a holiday or not, it is often common for the death date, the time of death, or the circumstances around the moment  of death, to signify a meaning that is personal and symbolic to the family. Read more

Honoring holiday traditions and memories

By Terre Mirsch

We promised ourselves that we would avoid the last minute rush this year.  We had a plan that would somehow make this year’s holiday preparations different than the previous ones where the hustle and bustle of the season left little time for actual enjoyment.  Internet shopping would enable us to avoid the shopping mall crowds during the weeks preceding Christmas.  Decorating the weekend following Thanksgiving, as many do, would provide us opportunity to enjoy the décor and relax as the holidays approached.

But the best made plans often go awry and such was the case with our Thanksgiving weekend decorating plans.  It was two more weeks before we hurriedly went up to the attic to bring down the decorations that would transform our home for the holidays.  My daughter began handing me one box after the other.  We only had an hour and we were determined to get everything down–quickly. Read more

Talking with children about death

By Leanne Billiau

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
Fred Rogers

 I saw this quote several times in the days immediately following the recent tragedy in Connecticut.  I also heard many people struggling with how and what to tell their children.  Anxiety, fear, anger, and feelings of helplessness come to the forefront as we are reminded that life is full of uncertainties.  Although the desire to protect children from all hurt, pain, sadness, and grief is strong, it is not possible to create a life for them that is without struggle and heartache.  Those of us who work in hospice are aware of this on a daily basis as we help people who are dying to be as comfortable and peaceful as possible, and then help those who are left as they grieve the loss of their loved ones.

Read more

Dealing with loss: voices on the tragedy in Connecticut

The tragedy of the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut has shaken all of us. As hospice caregivers, we have been given the blessing of forewarning of the end of life; the families of those who died in Newtown had no such warning. Their shock is followed by profound grief. Grief Healing, a blog for professional and lay caregivers, posted the following written by Harry Proudfoot, who knows grief first hand.

There are 20 children in Newtown CT tonight who will never be coming home again.

Their parents will never tuck them in again or hug their warm bodies. They will never see them unwrap another Christmas present or celebrate another birthday. Read more

Tips for coping with grief during the holidays

By Leanne Billiau

The holidays can be a busy, overwhelming time for many, but when you are grieving the loss of a loved one, it can be an especially difficult time.  Holidays as well as special days, such as anniversaries and birthdays, can highlight the fatigue and loneliness many grieving people feel.  It is not unusual for feelings of grief to intensify as early as a few weeks prior to a holiday or special day and they can last for up to a few weeks afterward as well.  While this can be disturbing to the griever, it is not a set-back.  It is, in fact, one of the bumps on the journey of grief. Read more