Archive for Grief Support Group

That’s Daddy

What is your name? Or should I say . . . names?

Why did your parents give you your first and middle names? Do you have more than three names? Is there a Jr. III, or Ph.D. after your last name? Do you have a title in front, like Dr. or Rev. or—if you’re in Congress—Honorable? During the recent presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton was often introduced as, “Secretary Clinton.” That represented a traditional gesture of respect towards her for the last official office (Secretary of State) she had held.

Let’s focus on middle names. Why do you have that name?

For me it’s “George.” As far as I know, it was chosen because it was Dad’s middle name. Beyond that spare early fact, George later inspired personal connections to cartoon characters and World War II heroes. During high school a few jokingly called me “George of the Jungle,” a reference to a dumb cartoon on television. There was also the famous World War II military figure, General George Patton (note his “misspelled” last name!), which led to a few “general” nicknames. And let’s not forget the nursery figure, Georgie-Porgie*. When bad as a kid, my little used middle name served as a warning for impending doom. If my parents demanded that Lawrence George Patten come to them “right now,” it was Trouble, with a capital T.

What about your middle name? What’s the history? Has it prompted lasting nicknames or is it part of lifelong family stories?

But why ponder names when my usual subject is hospice? Read More →

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The “New Normal” Doesn’t Work For Me

new-normalI don’t like “the new normal” for describing one of grief’s essential goals.

Your grandmother dies—the one who cared for you after school while your parents worked, and made your senior ball dress—and you deeply grieve her loss. She was a best friend. Now your family and friends tell you to find a “new normal” as you struggle with not having one of your lifelong cheerleaders available for a talk.

Your spouse of a more than four decades has died. This is the person you’ve known and who has known you since the first year of college. Many of your friends (most of whom are still married, still a couple, and have no clue how horribly your heart is broken) encourage you to seek out the “new normal.”

Your second child dies on the day of birth. For nearly nine months, the ob-gyn said, “Everything was fine.” And then it wasn’t. The child had a name, had a room decorated, and had an excited family ready to welcome her into the world. Gone. But you’re young, friends say. You’ll get over it, friends say. You’ll eventually reach a “new normal,” they say.

Everyone who dies is unique. We know that.

Everyone’s grief is unique. We understand that.

And after death—as grief batters our souls and we’re eating too much or not enough, and sleeping without getting any rest, and with hearts not just broken but shredded—we long for “normal.”

Normal? Read More →

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On Grieving and Dating

It's only going out for a little conversation and ice cream . . .

It’s only going out for a little conversation and ice cream . . .

Our Grief Support Group Guideline #15 warns, Members shouldn’t date other members while participating in the support group.

Dating?

That’s not the precise language, but it’s close. As a grief support group leader at a hospice, I spend the first session on mundane tasks like: making sure confidentiality forms are understood and signed; having members respond in writing about their expectations; and—like the dullest of college professors—reading aloud every single do and don’t in the group guidelines.

  • We do want them to silence all electronic devices.
  • We don’t want anyone to dominate the conversations.
  • We do desire confidentiality.
  • We don’t want anyone taking recreational drugs.
  • We do want group members to let us know if they’ll miss a session.
  • We don’t want them to do any dating.

There are more guidelines than these, but you get the idea. Read More →

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