A Celebration of Life−Coming to Terms of Bereavement

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Donna Mae Scheib

A Celebration of Life−Coming to Terms of Bereavement

Posted by Donna Mae Scheib on February 28, 2019

A Celebration of Life−Coming to Terms of Bereavement

Recently, I attended a Holiday Celebration of Life sponsored by local home care & hospice, Inc. for families who have lost a loved one within the past six months. The luncheon highlighted several speakers who focused their presentations on the topic of bereavement. There was also an opportunity to share memories and reconnect with the hospice team that was assigned to the specific patient/patient’s family. I thought it might be interesting to share some of the takeaways from this event.

First of all. What is grief? 

Grief is defined as a normal, healthy response to life-changing loss or events. It is a process that requires you to work through the pain or loss.

When is grief more prevalent in people’s lives?  As people age, there are increased life events (e.g., retirement, financial strain, declining health, moving, the death of elderly friends and spouse, loss of friendships) that add to this sense of grief. However, anyone at any time can experience grief. However, “grief” is often associated with the loss or death of a loved one.

How does grief affect you?  Grief can impact how you feel, act, and even your thoughts and beliefs for a duration of time.

How do you work through grief?

Despite the loss being present in your life, the fact is that the pain associated with this loss will decrease in time. There are several recommendations supported by research that will help with this process:

  • One suggestion is a support system (e.g., a support group possibly from a local church or hospital) to turn to for comfort as many of these people are experiencing a similar loss. You can also seek the support of a bereavement counselor and talk to your family members and friends about your grief.
  • Another idea is to write down your feelings (whether anger, sadness, disappointment, guilt or relief). Simply putting your feelings down on paper will help with the healing process.
  • Make your own needs and health a priority. Take time to eat healthy meals and get plenty of sleep. Try to get enough fresh air, sunshine, and exercise, too. You will undoubtedly be able to think more clearly and to also stabilize your moods.
  • Contact your physician if you are experiencing a persistent, sad, anxious or empty mood; feelings of hopelessness; difficulty concentrating; decreased energy; or negative thoughts. Their expertise and advice are invaluable.

How can you help someone else with their grief?

It is understandable that the “grief-stricken” person is overwhelmed and may not solicit help. They are likely to be experiencing several common emotions, and often simultaneously: sorrow, anger, loss of focus, remorse, guilt, sadness, and sense of responsibility. Instead of suggesting they call you if they need anything (which is often the case), it is better that you bring them a healthy dinner or arrange a date to clean their house or do yard work, run errands, etc. And then show up. Each of these actions will help to make the recovery process a little easier and more comfortable for the grieving individual. Plan a visit and just listen to them. Share a movie or play a favorite game. Tell some stories. Go for a walk. If they are of a particular faith, you might want to offer a prayer or read scripture together. If a face-to-face visit is not possible, you can send a note, card, or email; call on the phone; or video chat. Let them know that they are in your thoughts and you are open to talking/listening whenever they may need to do so. Then contact them again. Be genuine in showing your care and concern.

What is the commonly accepted model of bereavement?

Typically, grief occurs in five stages. However, the stages don’t necessarily follow in order as psychologists once claimed and they don’t last the same amount of time or have the same intensity for everyone. Each person’s grieving process is different. The stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. When you have worked through the stages, you can better move on to your own life and what the future offers. It is not to say that you still don’t feel the loss, but that you have gained some strength and more ability to cope with this loss. You can move forward in your life and your future.

This memorial celebration showed me that I am not alone in my grieving and that my grief is not unique. I was grateful for the experience to have the support of the hospice team and to hear their inspirational presentations about bereavement. I did share many of the common emotions through the grieving stages and have arrived at the acceptance stage. Through this acceptance of my mother’s death, I have been able to work through my pain, adjust better to the changed environment, and now am moving forward in life. It took some time and it hurt along the way…but I have renewed strength and a peaceful spirit. That’s something to celebrate, too. 

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