Archive for Grieving

Words Used in Hospice I’d Like to Delete

winding paths

The scene below is complete fiction . . . (Except families face similar situations every day.)

The phone rang before he had sampled the morning’s first cup of coffee. Given the daily flood of robocalls, wrong numbers, and solicitations for money or opinions, he thought about ignoring it. Out of habit, he glanced at the caller ID.

His sister, phoning before dawn on the other side of the country.

He answered, knowing even before she spoke her first halting, gasping, tearful words that their father—the “old man,” the cranky veteran of two wars, and the guy who had not disturbed his wife’s side of the closet a decade after her death—had taken a turn for the worse.

“You better come,” she said. “I think he’s dying.”

Within the hour, he’d called his boss and rearranged his schedule. He bought credit-card-exploding plane tickets and kissed his wife and kids goodbye. Finally settled into a lousy middle chair in a row of three seats near the back of the plane, several thoughts dominated his mind.

Maybe I can get closure.

And then the family can get back to normal.

I hope this will be over soon. Read More →

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On Faith: Blessing, Burden, or Both?

faith traditions

The younger one answered the phone.

Her older sister had recently died. Soon, I was sharing what our hospice offered for the grieving. Part of my job responsibilities include “cold calling” family members in the fragmented, blurry days after a loved one’s death.

Like many hospices, we have grief counselors. It would be easy to schedule a one-on-one session, but she didn’t sound interested. I suggested our support groups.

“Maybe later on, but I’m really not a groupy kind of person.”

A grief workshop on next month’s calendar also wasn’t appealing. And then, since this conversation occurred when summer was fading into autumn, I mentioned several upcoming annual activities. One dealt with facing the holidays without a loved one. Another was an outdoor memorial service between Thanksgiving and Christmas, open to everyone in the community.

“Are those holiday events going to focus on a particular faith?” she asked.

She emphasized particular. Read More →

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9 Things to Ask a Griever Instead of: How Are You Doing?

I'm fine

How are you doing?

That simple query is likely near the top of the list of questions grievers would rather not answer. In the grief support groups I’ve led over the years, participants often mention how much those four words irk them.

If polite, they give a neutral answer, knowing the person asking has no clue about the roiling, unpredictable feelings the death of a loved one has created. If not so polite, grievers may ignore the one asking, and/or turn away, and/or reply with blunt words they may (or may not!) later regret.

Hey, I’m guilty of asking the question. Professionally, I can probably get away with it. The group members, as they seek healing and a better understanding of grief, permit me to ask some of the most predictable questions. In the group, I attempt to create a safe space so that they can give—or not give—answers. Additionally, each person knows everyone else in the room has experienced one or more life-changing deaths.

However, most of a griever’s day is not spent with a supportive group. It’s with family gatherings, at the supermarket, in the place of worship, on the sidewalk in front of your home . . . and here comes the friend or neighbor asking: Read More →

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