Archive for Grief

I Just Wanted Her for One More Day

Several years ago, our hospice team gathered to discuss the day’s work. Not long after we began, a veteran nurse wept when sharing about the death of one of her assigned patients . . . a child, not yet school age. The nurse had cared for and supported her tiny patient since birth.

How can any infant or child (and their families) be burdened with the phrase, “hospice appropriate,” and yet they are.

Family, friends, doctors and nurses knew this day would come. Born with a life-limiting illness, and given the best possible medical care and an abundance of love, there was no hope for the child to reach the teen years, let alone a “normal” life. However, I’m confident prayers for a miracle were whispered. Bargains were made with God. Any optimistic hint from a doctor’s comments, or rumors of new experimental treatments, was enthusiastically grasped.

The child died. And that nurse cried.

Everyone in the meeting seemed staggered by the death. We knew it would happen. We were not fools. If it didn’t happen last year, it could be this year. If it didn’t happen last month, the child’s death might happen the next day. But death came on this day, and a child’s moments on earth ended, still young enough so that anyone could easily count the literal number of days lived. Read More →

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Grief On A Busy Street In Australia

How easily technology aids communication…

This is a tale of tears.

I’ve written about crying before. I likely will again. Tears are grief’s soundtrack; weeping is a river that flows through wounded souls.

With my current work in hospice, I lead grief support groups three or four times a year. Maybe there are a dozen participants in each group and so I may annually meet forty new people through the sessions. Before they enter the room, I don’t know most of them.

I also help staff several activities that our hospice sponsors during the year. When added up, hundreds from the community attend these programs for an hour or an afternoon. I won’t know most of them.

One of my key tasks is contacting grieving families after the death. Weekly, I spend hours pressing numbers on a phone’s keypad. I make 10-15 daily calls. There is 50+ a week, 200 or so a month, and perhaps 2,500 a year. With many, I leave messages. Most who answer, when there’s a chance to converse, I don’t know.

I recently (or a year ago) made one of those thousands of phone calls to an “unknown” griever. However, I did know his recently deceased parent. His father was a chaplain at our hospice for several years and we had both attended lengthy patient care meetings together. I’d also talked with patients the father had served as a chaplain. And, given what my job entails, I’d scanned entries in medical charts by this chaplain about his patients.

[Disclaimer.]

He was a good guy and a compassionate chaplain. Soft spoken and sweet, he’d always take the extra minute or hour to listen to someone who was hurting. In meetings, he added supportive reactions or funny comments that would enliven a dull hour.

This chaplain left our hospice for a church or hospital or overseas mission opportunity. (Hey, I want to keep these fake details about his life as ambiguous as possible!)

And then he died. Prostate cancer: one day seemingly healthy, the next day not. Served by the hospice where he’d once worked, he never saw sixty candles on his birthday cake.

Now I called his son. Read More →

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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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