Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What is Bereavement?

What is Bereavement?

Bereavement is another word for grief. According to the National Institutes of Health, “grief is defined as a reaction to a major loss. Grief may be triggered by the death of a loved one. People also can experience grief if they have an illness for which there is no cure, or a chronic condition that affects their quality of life. The end of a significant relationship may also cause a grieving process. Everyone feels grief in their own way. However, there are common stages to the process of mourning.”
Hospice of Southern Illinois has a bereavement team that works with families before and after the loss of their loved one. This team has specialized skills to assist families with their needs, regardless of where they are in the grief process. An extension of our bereavement team is a wonderful newsletter, Journeys, which we have purchased, which offers stories to help people relate and provide support to those who are experiencing grief. We offer this newsletter to families up to 13 months after a loved one has passed. If you are interested in viewing a sample, please contact me. I will be happy to send one your way, cjuhene@hospice.org. I would like to share a story from the June 2011 issue, “Grief can mean many things- literally,” by Kenneth J. Doka.

“When Marge stated it was hard to cope with “all the things”- I thought I knew what she meant: dealing with all the emotional work that sometimes is part of the journey of grief – the anger, the guilt, the loneliness, the sadness, and all the regrets. I was wrong.
Marge, quite literally, actually meant the things – her husband’s possessions and cloths, everything in the closets, drawers and garage, the pits and pieces of her husband’s life that bore a mute witness to her loss.
It is tough to deal with the “things of grief,” reminders of our loss. Well-meaning, though perhaps ill-informed friends advise us to get rid of it, to clear everything out. Others may even make subtle or not-so-subtle requests for such “things.”
When dealing with the “things of grief,” the first rule is: there are no rules. Each of us has to make our own decision on what to keep or to give away. One man in my support group shared that, for him, seeing an empty drawer that once was filled with his wife’s clothes would be far worse than still seeing her “things.”
As in many situations of grief, there is no single way to cope with the “things” nor is there a timetable for when to do it. You need not tackle the task (if you choose to tackle it at all) in the first week, month, or even year. You should do it when it seems right, when you are ready.
If you do decide to clear out some of the “things of grief,” you may need to consider another question: Should I do it alone? Again, there are no rules. Some of us prefer to do this alone; others may welcome the support and assistance of family or friends. Either way, some of us may need to go at our own pace – slowly, stopping at times as we confront our memories and our loss.
In some instances, support from family and friends may be especially helpful, even necessary, such as when you cannot proceed on your own timetable. For example, when Paula’s mother died, Paula had only two weeks to vacate her parents’ apartment.
If or when we deal with the “things of grief,” it helps to create systems. My Dad saved everything. The basement was full of boxes that included World War II ration books and every check he wrote in his life. When we cleaned out the house, my brother, sister and I decided to divide things out in to five categories:
Things that clearly could be discarded – These items had no value to us, symbolic or otherwise, Things that we were unsure about – These items we felt we should discuss as a group. Once discussed a decision was made to place them in another category, Things simply referred to as “not now” – We were not ready to decide what to do here: maybe others would need to be consulted; maybe we simply needed to wait a while. We realized that in the midst of grief, we might not always make the best decisions. In such cases, there is reason to delay decisions, Things we would donate or give to other individuals – We knew that my father’s grandchildren and friends would treasure certain items, and Things that each of us wanted to keep – one of the things we know about grief is that we never lose the memories; we retain the bonds even as they change in loss.
But sometimes it is nice to have items that hold those memories, and comfort us in loss. For my sister there are days in the long, cold winter of grief that she finds comfort in wearing our Dad’s old flannel shirt.”

If you are in need of our bereavement team, please do not hesitate to call 1-800-233-1708. Hospice of Southern Illinois is here to teach you what hospice is, what we are about, and what we can do for you and your loved ones! No one has to go through the dying process alone. Hospice of Southern Illinois can help!

Live well, laugh often, and love much,
Christine Juehne
Hospice of Southern Illinois
Community Education

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My name is Christine Juehne, and I have worked as a community educator for four years at Hospice of Southern Illinois, a member of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO). I will be your hospice guru answering questions, covering stories, and informing you about all hospice topics. I welcome you to our blog! Follow our journey to stay committed to our mission, enhance the quality of life for individuals and their loved ones touched by a terminal illness! If you have further questions about Hospice of Southern Illinois or general hospice questions please feel free to call 618-235-1703 or e-mail me at cjuehne@hospice.org!

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