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Tag Archive | "grief"

Dealing with unexpected grief and loss


 

By Bob Cahill, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hospice of Michigan

The evening news has recently been dominated by stories of unexpected loss and these tragedies continue to make headlines every day. The tragedy in Orlando is the most recent national event that has thrust our communities into grieving. For those of us who work with patients and families facing death every day, adding the national grief of an unanticipated tragedy is all the more unsettling. We all share a common thread with the victims in Orlando and their loved ones; when someone loses a life unexpectedly, their family and friends are left to cope with the loss of someone whom they loved dearly.

Experiencing the loss of a loved one is always challenging, but a sudden loss can be shocking and even unimaginable. In the back of our minds, we understand that no one lives forever. When someone we love has a terminal illness or has reached the end-stages of their life, we have time to make preparations and say our goodbyes. However, an untimely death can leave us feeling lost, out-of-control and overwhelmed with pain.

Those who experience unexpected loss may feel angry by the sudden death, cheated of a last goodbye, or sad that they didn’t perform some final act of kindness before their loved one died. Missing out on saying goodbye can leave us feeling distressed, adrift and angry, which only adds to our grief, pain and sadness during an already difficult time.

Although it may be hard to imagine during the months and even years after a sudden death, it’s important to remember that surviving through grief and loss is possible. While everyone grieves differently, ultimately we each work through the pain to begin the healing process.

As we go through a grief journey, it’s important to also focus on our health and emotions. After a loss, we may find ourselves eating or sleeping less; but both are key to healing. We should also be honest with ourselves and deal with our emotions; repressing feelings only delays the grieving process. Crying doesn’t mean we are weak or that we’re being selfish, it means that we are human.

Support groups and counselors are a valuable resource for those who have experienced a loss. They can be found through faith-based organizations such as churches or synagogues; community centers; or non-profit community-based support and grief programs. Many programs are tailored to specific needs such as dealing with an unexpected loss, and are often low-cost or free. The comprehensive grief support services provided through Hospice of Michigan across the state of Michigan are always provided to the community at no cost, whether or not the person has had a loved one use its hospice or palliative care services for adults or children.

Ultimately, it’s important to keep that loved one close to your heart and honor them by living a fulfilling life. During the difficult times following an unexpected loss, we can find comfort by trusting that the person we loved would want us to live our lives to the fullest. 

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Hospice of Michigan to host coping with holidays program


 

After a popular response, Hospice of Michigan will present three additional Coping with the Holidays, a free community outreach program in the Grand Rapids area that provides the bereaved with tips to deal with grief during a time when most are happy and expressing joy.

For those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, the holidays often elicit emotions of grief and sadness,” said Sue Glover, grief support services manager at Hospice of Michigan. “Though it may be a difficult time for those grieving, it can also be a wonderful time to remember a loved one’s memory. Our program is designed to give the bereaved the tools they need to once again enjoy this special time of year.”

HOM’s Coping with the Holidays program teaches that the holidays may be challenging but there are techniques to help handle grief and find comfort, such as:

*Planning ahead. Bereaved individuals who seem to have the most difficulty with the holidays are often those who have given little thought to the emotional challenges they will encounter.

*Accepting your limitations. Family and social pressures, in combination with decision-making challenges, can be overwhelming. Choose a few issues to deal with and limit the number of decisions you need to make so they won’t overwhelm you.

*Taking care of yourself. Exercising, eating a proper and balanced diet and getting the proper amount of rest are critical.  Avoid the temptation of excessive alcohol.

*Lowering expectations. Go easy on yourself and try not to overextend in order to reduce overall stress.

Events will be held:

Tuesday, Nov. 17 at Vista Springs Senior Living, 2708 Meyer Ave., SW, Wyoming from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 22 at Johnson Feuerstein Funeral Home, 203 S. Pleasant St., Belding from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 7 at Adams Park Apartments, 1440 Fuller Ave., SE, Grand Rapids from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

The Coping with the Holidays program is open to all those dealing with grief, whether a loved one died recently or decades ago.  Participants are invited to enjoy refreshments and listen as grief experts discuss holiday coping techniques such as planning ahead, accepting limitations and finding someone who will listen.

To register or receive additional support, please contact Glover at 616.356.5255 or sglover@hom.org.

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Back-to-School with grief  


Going back to school can be especially challenging for a child who has recently lost a loved one. Hospice of Michigan encourages parents and educators to understand the signs of childhood grief and then take steps to allow children the chance to grieve in a healthy, productive way.

Going back to school can be especially challenging for a child who has recently lost a loved one. Hospice of Michigan encourages parents and educators to understand the signs of childhood grief and then take steps to allow children the chance to grieve in a healthy, productive way.

While most kids will carry backpacks with books and school supplies when they return to the classroom, others will carry a much heavier and often invisible burden: the grief of losing a loved one.

“Going back to school can be especially challenging for a child coping with grief,” said Karen Monts, director of grief support services at Hospice of Michigan. “If a child has recently lost a parent, it can be difficult to hear other children talking about their families. And while father-daughter dances and grandparents day are special and fun-filled events, they can be painful reminders of loss to a grieving child.”

According to the Coalition to Support Grieving Students, approximately one in 20 U.S. children will lose a parent by the time they reach the age of 16. The vast majority of children experience a significant loss of a friend or relative by the time they complete high school. Monts encourages parents of a grieving child to reach out to the child’s school and alert staff to a recent death in the family. She also urges educators to equip themselves to help students suffering from grief. Books, websites and blogs about children and grief can all be great resources; www.kidsgrief.org is a good place to start.

“Grief isn’t something children can leave at home; it will follow them to school and they may turn to their teacher for help,” Monts said. “Teachers should have a private discussion with the student when he or she returns to school. Just having the conversation can validate and normalize the grieving child’s feelings. The teacher and guardian should also ask if it’s OK to let the class know about the death the student is coping with. The teacher can explain that while discussing the recent death with the class might be uncomfortable, it will make things easier in the long run.”

Monts warns that it can be difficult to recognize a child struggling with grief because it’s often a feeling young children in particular can’t verbalize. Instead, feelings of grief in children typically come out in behaviors and actions. Some signs that a child might be having a hard time coping include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Spending a lot of time alone
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Increasingly anxious about being left alone
  • Regression to a previous stage of development
  • Problems sleeping or change in appetite
  • Falling grades or refusal to go to school
  • Frequent tearful outbursts
  • Constantly imitating or repeatedly stating that he or she wants to join the deceased

If educators recognize these symptoms in students, they should alert a parent or guardian. There are also things a teacher can do to help a student suffering from grief, including:

  • Comfort the child by being patient, spending extra time and letting the student know he or she is not alone.
  • Acknowledge the child’s loss and grief.
  • Listen, which can validate the child’s feelings, and make sure the child isn’t taking responsibility for the death.
  • Explain that strong feelings of sadness, fear, anger, etc. are normal and encourage the child to express these feelings.

If symptoms become severe, the school, parent or guardian might consider involving a social worker or counselor.

While school can present additional challenges for a grieving child, Monts explains that it can also be an escape. “When a family experiences a significant loss, life at home can become very sad and school can be a great diversion,” Monts said. “This is especially true if the classroom is a healthy place and the teacher has created a caring atmosphere that allows the child to share their feelings in a non-judgmental environment.”

Grief is a personal and individual experience that takes place over time. While it may take some children years to work through their grief, Monts explains that by working together, parents and educators can provide children with a better opportunity to grieve in a healthy, productive way.

Hospice of Michigan partners with other organizations and offers a variety of grief support and educational services, including individual visits, support groups and educational programs. Our services are available to all families involved with Hospice of Michigan as well as the community at large. For more information on any of the services we offer, visit www.hom.org.

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