I’ve had a lot of experience personally with grief and bereavement, including the loss of my mother from cancer when I was nineteen, loss of what my life might have been through chronic illness, loss of friends and other relatives, and the loss of my father to dementia. Several years ago, I became a hospice volunteer so that I could help other families go through this experience. It was such an honor to accompany others on what can be a difficult journey; whenever people say they can’t imagine being a hospice worker and being around death, I tell them it really is one of my strengths and I don’t fear it at all.
A few years later, I trained, on the job as it were, as a bereavement counselor. I volunteer for Providence Hospice of Seattle, and have been privileged enough to co-facilitate several six-week-long grief groups, as well as drop in groups for the newly bereaved. Holding space for a support group is truly an honor and every time I can help someone process some of their grief, I am glad.
We don’t talk much about grief and end-of-life in this country, which I think is short-sighted and full of denial. Death is a natural part of life, as is grieving. If asked, people would say they want a “good death” but no-one is willing to discuss what this means. This leads to extended, painful deaths in hospitals, instead of in hospice care; families that don’t know how their loved one wants the end of their life to go, because nobody wanted to have a difficult and “morbid” conversation; and financial and legal struggles during an already difficult time. We also don’t think enough about grief and the true toll it can take on the bereaved. Companies don’t give time off, leading to overwhelm on the part of the griever; friends don’t know what to do or how to help, and get impatient at someone not “getting over it;” people suffer needlessly because they don’t know how to deal with their grief and get help; children are confused and hurt when nobody explains grief and loss to them.
I want to write more about grief, loss, and end-of-life because I think it is necessary and so important.
Books and Sites:
When Parents Die – Rebecca Abrams
You’ll Get Over It – Virginia Ironside
When Parents Die – Edward Myers
The Orphaned Adult – Alexander Levy
The Truth About Grief – Ruth Davis Konigsberg
Final Gifts – Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley
Happier Endings – Erica Brown
A Grief Observed – C.S. Lewis
The D-Word – Sue Brayne
Changing the Way We Die – Fran Smith and Sheila Himmel
How We Die – Sherwin B. Nuland
Dying Well – Ira Byock, MD
Being Mortal – Atul Gawande
Knocking on Heaven’s Door – Katy Butler