Archive for Covid-19

When Death is Bad and Memories are Worse

I saw that picture of my mother and it jarred me . . .

Hospice agency web pages and pamphlets don’t highlight traumatic or difficult deaths.

While these unfortunate deaths do occur, they are infrequent. (But they won’t feel infrequent if you experience it.)

After the death, how do grievers start healing from those memories? The images of the final days (or more) include triggers for all the senses. Often, it’s not only a “mental picture” a griever recalls. There are smells, tastes, feels, and sounds that abruptly surface. And with certain deaths, it is not being there that fuels the disruptive recollections. Absence can be as tormenting as presence.

My mother died in 2013.

Like many others, I was reviewing pictures of Mom to post comments about her birthday on social media. Maybe an old black-and-white snapshot? Maybe one with just Mom and me? Maybe a collage of photos depicting various decades? While searching, I double-clicked on a tiny image in my computer’s photo file. Mom’s final hospital bed filled my screen.

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Regrets in a Season of Disease

I think of an elderly woman, who sometimes feels like she is in jail . . .

“This is not prison,” she said. “I know that. But, just a little bit, just occasionally, and if I’m feeling down, it does seem . . .”

She paused, sighed, and then added, “. . . like I’m stuck in jail.”

I remember the call from back in April, wanting to see how she was getting along a month after her husband had died. He had been my hospice’s patient since the beginning of the year. From just after Christmas to nearly the start of spring, the husband (and father of three) had gone from taking walks with his family to bedbound. His wife of over sixty years, the woman I called, held his hand when he took his last breath.

And then she went to “jail.” The Covid-19 pandemic, in the final weeks of his life, was all over the news. If he had died a week later, she may not have been by his side.

“We were lucky,” she said, not sounding lucky.

A few years back, they had moved into a “senior citizens’ joint” (her husband’s words). Their small apartment was adequate. The twice-a-day meals were nourishing. The facility staff was friendly.

Then, shelter-in-place.

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My New Four-Letter Words

Words Matter

As much as my words could be labeled as platitudes or clichés, they are heartfelt . . .

There are two four-letter words that I have usually said at the close of a conversation with someone grieving: Take care. In recent weeks, I have added two “new” four-letter words because of the microscopic onslaught of Covid-19: Stay safe.

There are additional slightly longer or shorter words that are included in my predictable, simplistic responses when trying to support those hurting after the death of a loved one:

  • How are you doing?
  • Is this a good time to talk?
  • Can I call you again?
  • Your (crying, not crying, eating, not eating, silence, worries, lack of concentration, weariness, plunging back into work) seems normal.

As much as my words could be labeled as platitudes or clichés, they are heartfelt. At the end of a phone call to a griever, a few weeks or months after the death, I say the Take care like it is a prayer. I indeed mean it as a prayer, as a spoken and shared hope for their future. And I don’t mean the future of years, but the future of a griever’s next moments and hours. When we grieve, time skids out of our control, like a car losing traction on a road’s black ice. Time slows. Time accelerates. A minute takes an hour. A day can whoosh by and we can’t recall anything accomplished between waking and returning to bed. My Take care is about treading lightly into the next moments. It’s about acknowledging a world that has temporarily lost color, meaning, clarity, purpose, plans, and so many other things that seemed “easy” a day or decade ago. Read More →Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather