Archive for Books & Resources – Page 2

The Little Blue Book

The "Little Blue Book"

The “Little Blue Book”

It’s often referred to as the “little blue book.” Or more simply, hospice’s “blue book.” For hospice professionals, the “blue book” may be the most familiar and commonly used resource given to patients and families.

Everybody should have a copy and read it.

But no one wants to. And no one should want to, until it’s time.

Barbara Karnes, a hospice nurse, published what amounted to a fancy pamphlet in 1985 entitled “Gone From My Sight.” Millions and millions of copies later, the blue-covered book with the picture of a ship on the front remains in print. The official title—“Gone From My Sight”—was inspired by a poem that described death as sailing away from one shore and toward a distant, unseen shore. The poem has easy-to-understand imagery and doesn’t emphasize one religious experience over another. Neither does it, because it uses metaphoric language, ignore the spirituality of dying and death, of fearing and preparing for the last moments with a loved one. Or for the first moments without that loved one. Read More →

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Bring On A Labyrinth

Detail of center, from labyrinth at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

Detail of center, from labyrinth at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

Dying is a journey. The same can be said of grief.

Indeed, a journey is a central image for everyone’s life. We take first steps—onto college, a new job, marriage—and set forth on unfamiliar paths. Maybe we’ll read a self-help book as a “trail guide.” Maybe we’ll listen to the advice of mentors. Maybe, even before a first step, we’ll plot the course of our education, relationships or career, identifying benchmarks to achieve and long-range goals. Planning is good, but most of the time we’ll stumble along.

Every “trail” has trials and errors. Oops and Hooray are often said on the same day. Regrets burden us like boulders tucked in a pack. Joys surprise us and lighten the load. On we trudge. On we scamper. Or, in my case, I bring on a labyrinth.

I’ve begun to use the labyrinth as a tool to help people understand their grief. I’m new at this, and mostly wonder how it will go. But I already know one thing:  we’re all sojourners, pilgrims with heavy hearts and hopeful longings.

A labyrinth is a circular pattern with a specific course that includes an obvious start, middle and finish. Labyrinths can be temporary designs on a beach, painted on canvas, set in stone in a church’s floor or constructed for long-term use in an outdoor setting. A simple labyrinth may be no more than parallel lines forming a roundabout path. Complex ones will include symbols and mimic, to quote the Beatles, “a long and winding road.” For example, designs inspired by the 13th Century labyrinth in France’s Chartes Cathedral include a flower-like pattern in the middle with six “petals.” Those petals are symbolic of the six days of creation. But rudimentary or elaborate, all labyrinths share two key traits that may help a grieving person. Read More →

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Over My Dead Body, Part 2

Unless you follow a faith tradition that doesn’t permit the body to be present, should you include the remains of the deceased at the funeral?

I won’t mince words with my answer:  No.

Frankly I didn’t even consider this question until recently. However, I attended a grief workshop led by the knowledgeable and energetic Alan Wolfelt. He strongly advocated for the presence of the body at a funeral. Wolfelt’s viewpoint challenged my long-held beliefs.

Why have the body?

In today’s American culture, we are youth oriented, even youth obsessed. Hollywood actors aren’t alone as they nip and tuck their ways to a youthful appearance. In order to be the “stars” of their own life, many engage in crash diets, odd exercise regimes and a dose of botox to battle age. But resistance is futile . . . flesh inevitably reveals human limits and mortality.

Grief matters. When a loved one dies, ceremonies encourage emotional reactions to death. While everyone differs in how they handle death and bereavement, physically witnessing the body guarantees a response. It can be too easy to postpone mourning—or more broadly, to avoid all sad feelings—because most prefer non-stop happiness. Death is a miserable time for the living. Viewing a body bluntly invites the grief we mustn’t ignore. Read More →

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