Archive for Memories

In Praise of Words and Music for Patients

“I’m still praying the Lord’s Prayer with him,” one of our hospice chaplains said about her patient.

This person’s illness had made it difficult to communicate anymore. Most of his decisions were now made by his loved ones. Often it comes to this, where our beloved spouse or parent and grandparent can no longer effectively communicate. Sometimes it is because of cancer, and a “sudden” turn for the worse means a patient easily conversing in the morning transitions to someone incapable of talking by the evening. Or the patient slowly walks the darkening, years-long road of dementia, eventually unable to speak or comprehend words.

But with many of these folks, certain words, songs and memorabilia will trigger a positive, life-affirming response. As the chaplain reported the situation, when this patient was asked if he wanted to pray, he gave an affirmative nod and then, as the chaplain began, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” the patient joined in.

Did he fully understand the prayer? Probably not. Read More →

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A Cursed, Crushing, Conflicted Concoction of Feelings

Long ago, maybe around Easter, with Dad, my younger sister, and me . . .

When my father bellowed and ordered me to leave his home, it was as if a double-edge knife had penetrated my heart. Like a rusty, bent blade, it twisted with the volume and intensity of Dad’s outburst.

One side of the blade was love. One, hatred.

We did not know then about his dementia.

Odd how, with those we love the most and the surest, we can experience such damning and damaging of reactions.

Dad’s unexpected roar came partway through a mundane visit home, where I balanced time with my parents while attending a conference. Fine! If he didn’t want me around—though I had no clue why—I could find a motel near the downtown conference, crash with a friend attending the event, or head home where my wife and pets would at least treat me with respect.

Mom intervened.

Odd to sit around the old kitchen table, with my parents now married for six decades, and to have your mother forcefully demand that her husband apologize to their son. Dad did. Looking back now, why wasn’t it obvious? He was hardly smiling anymore. His eye contact with others had become random and held no welcome or curiosity. At that table, Mom chided him. Mom warned him. Mom prevailed. Read More →

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8 Helpful Things To Say To Grieving People

From #7: Take a walk together. Sharing silence can be comforting...

From #7: Take a walk together. Sharing silence can be comforting…

In a prior post I identified comments and questions not to say to those who are grieving.

But what might be helpful things to say or do? Below are eight suggestions.

With these eight, I’m reminded of a theme in the grief support groups I’ve led: everyone’s grieving is different. None of my proposed “good” words or actions represents a magic formula. Don’t (oops, a “don’t!”) literally or figuratively copy and paste this list to any situation. Adapt it to who you are. Adapt it for the grieving person you seek to support.

(And as with the “bad” list, these sentences aren’t ranked from best to worst, or vice-versa.)

#1  I can’t imagine how you feel. Your friend/family member is flooded with powerful emotions, memories, and reactions unique to them. Often they don’t know how they feel, or why a few good hours or days in a row collapsed back into misery. But be ready to respond if your compassionate recognition of their distinctive grief leads them to ask how you coped with personal loss. If you’re able, carefully share your experiences. But honor the huge difference between telling someone what you think they should feel/do versus describing how you handled your difficult time. Read More →

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