Archive for Guilt

Tormented by a Quick Death

I recently talked to a man who received a call from his eldest brother. Of course, it was late at night . . .

I recently talked to a man who received a call from his eldest brother. Of course, it was late at night . . .

A number of months ago, I wrote about deaths that linger.

What about a loved one who dies quickly? Is that different?

I don’t mean sudden, traumatic deaths such as fatal accidents, natural disasters like the recent earthquake in Italy, or from bullets in war zones (and sadly in places like San Bernardino or Orlando or . . .). What about the 30% of deaths in hospice that occur within seven days? And within those national averages, some are in hospice for barely 24 hours. Being with a hospice for a week or less is unsettling. But when the care—and the death—all occur before the next day’s sunset, the unsettledness can become a hurricane of raw emotions, abrupt decisions, and instant regrets.

Hospice professionals know that when a loved one dies that quickly, most of the staff assigned to the patient and family won’t meet them. No one, other than nurses scrambling to manage the most urgent needs, had time to physically be with the patient who went from dying to dead in a handful of hours. A few days later, a chaplain or social worker will call to offer condolences . . . but she or he seems a stranger. More hospice staff will support you during your time of grief, but (again) they will be voices on a phone or letters in the mail.

Hospice professionals also know that many sudden deaths can be explained because of the inevitable, cruel progression of particular illnesses. But some can’t be explained. Read More →

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Traumatic Death

From "The Wild Bunch"

From “The Wild Bunch”

I’ve seen many traumatic deaths.

Haven’t you?

Most were on television or in a movie theater. But I also “killed” thousands in video games until ceasing to play all violent video games after the Columbine High School massacre in April of 1999.

As a kid enamored with cowboys and western films, there was always a good guy confronting the villain. The soundtrack thundered with edgy music. Shots were fired. There might be a close-up of a drawn pistol, smoke curling from the barrel like a chimney in winter. The bad guy would tumble to the dusty street, as a dead as . . . well as dead as an actor could be while lying stock-still on a movie set. There was rarely blood. While there are earlier examples, director Sam Peckinpah’s mythology-bending The Wild Bunch (1969) dramatically changed death in the western. Gallons of “blood” were spilled in the climactic shoot-out between the bad guys and the bad guys.

We’ve all seen terrible deaths.

Or have we? No matter how realistic, Hollywood is never real. Read More →

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Grief’s 5 Stages of Laughter

laughter medicineLaughter. Giggles. Guffaws. Chuckling.

That’s what I heard.

And that’s all I heard, since the thick walls at the hospice where I work muffled the sounds. But I knew my colleague next door was counseling a grieving client. Busy with exciting paperwork or answering emails, I was blissfully unaware of them until . . .

That laughter! Read More →

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