Archive for Grief – Page 2

Hospice: Apt or Likely to Change

“However,” the hospice nurse continued while describing a patient, “right now she is very labile.”

Huh?

As the nurse shared additional information about the patient to the rest of the hospice team, my feeble mind wandered. I like to think I’m pretty knowledgeable about words. I keep my dictionary near my desk. I pay attention to new words in the books I read. Searching for word meanings and histories on the web may give me as much pleasure as when a pitcher throws a strikeout or an attorney finds the key witness for a case. But I had no idea what labile meant.

Later (of course!), I looked it up. It’s pronounced Lay-Bile. According to an online dictionary, it means . . .

  1. Apt or likely to change.
  2. Chemistry. (of a compound) capable of changing state or becoming inactive when subjected to heat or radiation.

Now I understood that the nurse’s patient was rapidly changing. Maybe the patient had been able to walk not long before but had become bed bound. Maybe yesterday or last week, she’d been preparing her own meals, but now required assistance. Maybe pain had dramatically increased and additional medications would need to be considered.

In hospice, change happens frequently and quickly. In other words, patients are labile, and rarely by choice. Read More →

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Speaking the Deepest Truths of Grief

Putting a time limit on grief is like standing on the beach…

It was a tour of the hospice offices. Simple stuff.

But there was that guy.

Why didn’t I keep my trap shut?

Couldn’t I have read his mind? (Or, realistically, detected a hint of pain?)

As a professional, possessing a solid educational background and years of experience, how come I didn’t have right words at the right time to voice? But, as it’s jokingly and seriously said, sometimes . . . “Shit happens.”

It did that night.

Before explaining further, picture this man. He’s mid-seventies. His clothes are clean, a long-sleeved shirt buttoned at the wrists. His pants are unremarkable, with creases no longer sharp. The shoes need polishing. The crow’s feet framing his eyes have merged with other lines and creases. From forehead to chin, his face is a well-worn 3D topographical map. He’s leaner than beef jerky, and, so—to protect confidentiality—I’ll call him Slim Jim.

On his left hand, the gnarled finger closest to the pinkie, there’s a ring.

I didn’t notice it until later.

A friend shadows him, probably younger by a decade. This guy—let’s call him Nodding Norm—never speaks. But when his friend starts talking in a few minutes, he nods emphatically with every word.

Why was I with these two fellows? Read More →

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Don’t Say that Word!

In a workshop I attended several years ago, Dr. Alan Wolfelt explained the distinctions between grief and mourning. Wolfelt’s a renowned expert, the founder of Colorado’s Center for Loss & Life Transition. His understanding likely won’t be found in the dusty dictionary on your bookshelf or online at Wikipedia. And though I could consult my scratchy notes, I’ll share my simplistic recollection of what he said.

Grief is internal. Mourning is external.

How obvious! Doesn’t everyone know that’s the difference between those two experiences? But I’ll confess:  if you’d asked me before the workshop, I might’ve muttered, “Grief and mourning mean sorta the same thing.”

When humans experience any loss of significance, emotions roil us. Physically, we are floored. Our spirits sag. Energy wanes. Waking up is a chore; going to bed is dreaded. Have you been fired or downsized from a job? How’d you feel? Did you get dumped in high school or college by the sweetheart you were convinced was your lifelong “soul mate?” How’d you feel? Read More →

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