Archive for Families

The Other Half of the Equation

My little sister

Yeah, that’s me on the left, without my beard.

After an afternoon of talking with the bereaved, I returned the phone to its cradle and wondered: What is the worst death to experience?

During a typical week of work (which is less typical now since I’m sheltering-in-place at home), I’ll contact a lot of folks struggling with the death of a loved one. There are deceased spouses, children who are too young, children who are adults but were still too young, grandchildren, grandparents, cousins, best friends, mentors and colleagues, aunts and uncles, significant others, and the dearly departed that don’t fit a convenient category other than his or her death wrecked your heart.

Or does the worst death involve the circumstance? Is a sudden death from cancer worse than a lengthy dying from heart disease? Wouldn’t most prefer an accident (“He never saw the car that hit him and died in an instant.”) rather than the endless, incremental wasting away from dementia?

One of the earliest conversations I had with my boss after starting work as a Bereavement Support Specialist was about one particular relationship’s death that was often overlooked or downplayed. Read More →

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12 Suggestions for Talking to Kids about Death

A patient asked his hospice nurse, “How can I tell my kid that I’m dying?”

And the nurse later asked me.

It’s a scary question for parents and grandparents when they enter hospice care and have “six months or less to live.”

Before attempting answers, there are several good reasons to question my responses.

First, I don’t have children. I’ll never tell my own kid that I am dying. Second, I’m not an expert, but do have experience. A minister, I’ve supported families during the time of dying and grieving. Right now, in hospice, I work in bereavement support.

Now you’re aware of my advice-giver flaws! However, with conversations involving parents, kids, and dying, being open about your weaknesses (and not forgetting your strengths) is important. Read More →

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Five Hours

The clerk behind the counter in the fancy kitchen and cooking store looked forty-something. Smiling, she asked me a question echoed multiple times a day: “How can I help you?”

Then she glanced at the nametag on my shirt and her friendly salesperson grin faded. Soon, she was telling me about five hours that had changed her life.

But first I answered, letting her know I was there for a special-ordered knife and had also found other on-sale kitchen-y items. It was after work and I was crossing errands off a to-do list. When exiting my car, I noticed my nametag was still on.

Wearing my nametag in public is always a risk.

A good risk.

A bad risk. Read More →

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