Archive for Grief

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. Read More →

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The Phone Call

Man on beach

Now, less than a year after the initial cancer diagnosis, he was alone.

In my work with bereavement at hospice, I call grievers after a loved one’s death. With many of them, I leave messages.

While I repeat certain phrases and information, I have no script. Every message is unique, for that person. Though it infrequently happens, I hope my recorded message might prompt the “bereaved” to consider exploring and using our resources.

When someone answers, the conversations can be brief. Some calls drive me batty because the person could be driving, at work, or hurrying out the door for an appointment. He or she explains, “I can’t talk now.” Since I’m far, far from being a perfect human being, I often silently grumble: Then why’d you even answer? I have a love/hate relationship with cell phones and their ability to be with us anywhere we are.

One of my favorite can’t-talk-now calls was a fellow on the verge of “winning big” at a local Native American casino. I introduced myself while a soundtrack of electronic beeps and crowd noise ebbed and flowed. What was more important, playing the slots or speaking with the guy from hospice? Easy answer, eh?

Whether or not they are gambling or just too busy, we will try to contact them again. Read More →

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Hospice & 3 Guys: Guy During Grief

Guy grieving

Three guys.

They didn’t know each other, and they only knew me in the briefest and most problematic of days.

One Was Dying. Another was Near Death. The third was During Grief.

I think of them now, years—and decades—later, equally grateful and humbled for what I learned while spending time with them. As always, I will try to change a little or a lot of their story to disguise each guy’s true identity.

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The Guy During Grief . . .

He spoke in every one of the dozen grief support group sessions. I think it was only in the first gathering, where I shared the mandatory material about confidentiality and participant guidelines, that he did not mention a phrase that served as his personal mantra:

Nobody understands me.

And it wasn’t just once during the following eleven sessions that I heard Nobody understands me, but multiple times on a weekly basis whenever we had an open-ended sharing time or when he was responding to a specific question or concern. It could start a sentence or conclude one. Read More →

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