Archive for Sudden Death

When Death is Bad and Memories are Worse

Photos

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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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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A Perinatal Story

baby and momI was uncertain of what “perinatal” meant.

Though I’ve been colleagues for several years with the Angel Babies counselors at the hospice where I work, I was, well . . . ignorant.

[Read Disclaimer here.]

In my feeble defense, I’m not directly involved with the Angel Babies program. I’m also not a medical expert, and even “easy” terminology stumps me. Additionally, my wife and I don’t have children.

There were a series of unremarkable events—a phone call, a conversation, a few words on a webpage—that led me to learn “perinatal” referred to the before and after time period around the birth of a child. Here’s the sentence from the webpage that I’m sure I’d read before and had—like humans often do—overlooked the words I didn’t understand: Read More →

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