Archive for Fears

In Grief, Everything Changes

During a conversation this week* with a husband whose sixty-something wife had died from cancer, the surviving spouse said, “I thought I was prepared for her death, but nothing prepared me for my feelings now.”

Several of his relatives had experienced their spouses’ deaths. Each offered advice and support and he appreciated it. So far, it hadn’t helped.

The hospice staff serving his wife had honestly discussed her dying. They’d also gently suggested reactions he might have after her death. Everything said was thoughtful and kind. So far, it hadn’t helped.

[Disclaimer.]

He’d bought and read recommended books on grief while attending to his wife’s changing needs as she neared death. After all, the two of them had always been planners. He sought to be ready for the inevitable. So far, it hadn’t helped.

Grief is unique . . . for every single one of us.

No one can prepare for how to handle (and not handle) grief.

Unavoidably and inevitably, we will all grieve.

In another conversation, I called* a griever about six weeks after her spouse’s death. It was the second time I’d phoned, but—a month before—I’d only been able to leave a supportive message. Now she answered. Read More →

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Drugs, Doses, Dread & Delivery Options

pills

Around breakfast time, I usually shake out several pills into the palm of my hand . . .

The nurse arrived and sat beside my mother in the dimly lit hospital room.

One of the first things he said was, “This won’t hurt.”

He lied.

He was there to place a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC, or “pick”) into Mom’s upper right arm. She’d been offered Dilaudid—a brand name for hydromorphone, a narcotic stronger than morphine—for pain management. The medication would be housed in a CADD pump (Computerized Ambulatory Drug Delivery) connected to her PICC line. The linked pump and the catheter would give a predetermined, regular amount of medication to ease her physical agony. A “button” could be pressed on the CADD pump for additional dosages.

Are your eyes glazing over with all the medicalese?

Mom’s body was riddled with cancer and the two surgeries undertaken to “relieve” discomfort had added complications. As I calmly write this three years after her death, I understand why she said “Yes” to that PICC line: she wanted the wrenching pain to end and she was ready to die.

But the nurse, who seemed rightly weary in the near midnight hour when he entered Mom’s room, first caused more pain.

He swabbed her arm with disinfectant and inserted a needle.

She grimaced.

I held her left hand. Watching her tore my heart apart. Read More →

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Remove Your Hospice Nametag!

no-nameAn admitting nurse from hospice meets with a family in the eldest daughter’s home. He is giving information and answering questions. Three of the four siblings occupy chairs in different parts of the living room. They listen to the nurse while thumbing through hospice pamphlets and glancing at forms that require signatures.

Only a handful of steps away in the “spare bedroom,” the fourth sibling—the youngest brother—sits with their father.

The father is dying.

(Disclaimer.)

The bedroom will likely be the final place the father lives after a long life of military service, marriage, career, raising kids, retirement, and burying his wife a few years before. From long-ago conversations, his adult children know that he “can’t stomach those damn hospitals” and will “die on the streets before being dragged into a hospital.” Since he can no longer safely be alone in his apartment, the siblings are honoring his hatred of hospitals by caring for him in the eldest daughter’s home.

One of the kids, a fifty-something community college administrator, clears her throat and says, “We don’t want our father to know you’re from hospice.” She gestures toward the nurse’s nametag, dangling around his neck on a blood red cloth lanyard. “Could you take your nametag off before you see him? And we also don’t want any of your staff to wear their tags.

No one speaks. The muffled sound of snoring is heard from the spare bedroom. Read More →

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