Archive for Grief – Page 2

Grief, Unseen

Physical Therapy

I kept my questions casual when first talking with her.

Let’s say her name is Anne, which is not true. And let’s also say, to protect the proverbial innocent, that Anne’s friend’s name is Bryn. Both are in their early twenties. I met them because they were part of the physical therapy staff where I went for an irksome left knee. Anne and Bryn were friendly and efficient; they comfortably joked with patients, shared words of encouragement.

During a particular session, Anne was the one reminding me which exercise came next. She brought me the special flexible ball to help stretch my lower body, and later set the timer for how long I should be moving my limbs back and forth, side to side. I usually bantered with Anne (or Bryn), though sometimes I silently, steadily plowed through the required series of exercises.

When finished with a routine, I asked Anne the question that led to the question.

“Didn’t Bryn tell me that she started working here because you recommended her for the job?”

Anne grinned. “Right. She graduated from college and wasn’t sure what to do next.”

“How’d you two meet?” Read More →

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Both are 5 Letter Words

angerWith his voice as cold as black ice on a winter road, the nephew kept repeating, “That type of thing should never happen. It wasn’t fair to my aunt.”

I agreed with him.

Every time.

The nephew’s aunt—who’d raised him since his single-parent mother had died before he entered kindergarten—was the most important person in his life. Her final days in hospice, as far as he was concerned, became her worst days.

Based on the brief chart notes I’d scanned about this sixty-something woman, I hadn’t expected any anger about hospice. When I phoned not long after her death to ask how he and the rest of the family were doing, his anger shadowed our entire conversation.

Here, though, I must pause.

[Disclaimer]

There was no nephew. I am making most of this up, based on my thousands of calls to people grieving in the first days after the death of a loved one. And there was no aunt. The “type of thing” that “should never happen” could include many different possibilities:

  • A social worker made a promise to bring a list of local companies for caregiving options, but never followed through.
  • A home health aide didn’t properly dry off the patient after a bath.
  • A hospice physician had scheduled a visit with the family in the morning, but didn’t arrive until late afternoon.
  • A chaplain said a prayer that was explicitly Christian, but the patient was Buddhist.

I could keep adding to this list of disappointments. All of them are possible, but none of what I mentioned happened to this fictional family with a “nephew” desperately hoping his beloved “aunt” would have a calm, easy, gentle death. Read More →

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Unhappy Anniversary

black balloons

“When a year later arrived, I didn’t like the date of Mom’s death being called an anniversary.”

I don’t recall if that statement was read in a book or was part of a conversation. But the sentence has stuck with me, bothered me, and I still haven’t done much to change one of my phone habits.

Included in my responsibilities at the hospice where I work is calling the bereaved. Based on our company’s guidelines, we try to schedule calls several weeks and several months after the family member or friend has died. With some exceptions, the final scheduled phone contact is near the one year “anniversary” of the death date.

I’m glad we do. Even a brief or awkward conversation lets a griever know they are not forgotten. In many of those calls, no one will answer. These days, people are more likely to let a phone ring and find out later who left—or didn’t leave—a message. There are always disconnected numbers or ones that block “unknown” callers. However, quite a few people do respond. They are at work or home or traveling and suddenly there is this voice on the other end asking them, almost a year later, how they are doing. Read More →

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