Archive for Grief

Hospice is Far from Perfect

My finger reached for the first number to press on the phone’s keypad.

I hesitated. I silently prayed.

Since starting at my hospice job in 2012, I’ve averaged maybe fifty weekly bereavement phone calls, which means about 200 families per month. You can do the math . . . I’ve logged considerable phone time over the years! Some calls occur mere days after patients have died. Others are close to the one-year anniversary of the parent or child or spouse’s death. Because of my access to confidential patient information, and talking with the chaplains, social workers and nurses, I know details about a patient’s dying and the family’s reactions. In a few moments at a computer, I’ll read about conflicts between siblings, a spouse’s fears and—if I choose to scrutinize the medical charts—even what happened on the twelfth visit by the home health aide. Read More →

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Say This (But Not That) to the Griever

If you settle down into a chair beside them what can you say?

In a recent bereavement call I made to a woman grieving her husband’s death, she abruptly stated, “I never like it when someone asks, ‘How are you doing?’”

Whew.

I was glad I hadn’t posed that question to her, though I’ll bet the majority of my calls include a variation of that simple four-word query. She said she didn’t like the question because the answer was too obvious: she was feeling lousy, terrible, horrible, and sometimes worse . . . thank you very much. She easily cried and knew she needed to cry and didn’t want to cry. She missed her husband and the illness that took his life was unexpected and unfair. Dealing with dying and death and grief were all inevitable events she’d prefer to avoid.

But she couldn’t. 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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