In 1999 my wife, Cathie, died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 47. I was devastated. Dealing with my own sorrow and loss was bad enough, but our whole family was grieving, too… my four children, my mother and father, my in-laws.
One of the best things a friend did for me was to encourage me to attend the six week Hospice of Lenawee “Walking with Grief Seminar” (back then called “Grief Recovery”). What was helpful for me is that I learned the many feelings I was experiencing were somewhat “normal” for someone going through grief. I thought I was going crazy! I also learned about the need for support, different ways to mourn (external ways to appropriately express one’s grief), the importance of self-care, and the benefit of being with others who also were walking in their grief.
The next “Walking with Grief Seminar” will begin May 15, 2012 meeting Tuesday evenings from 5:00-6:30 p.m. at our new Hospice of Lenawee Facility. There is no cost for the seminar but we do ask you to register by phone (263-2323) by Monday, May 14th at 3 p.m.
At Hospice of Lenawee you will find a safe place to express your grief, as well as education, encouragement and support.
Director of Bereavement Services
Hospice of Lenawee
Preschool Children (ages 3-5)
- Carry grief in their bodies
- Carry it physically since they have no perception of time or permanence of death
- Limited vocabulary to express feelings
Elementary Age Children (ages 6-11)
- Move in an out of grief in short bursts – from grief to activity to grief to activity
- Experience anxiety
- Concerns about separation
- Regressive behavior
Teens (ages 13-17)
- Tend to seek out peer support rather than adults
- Tend to grieve as they separate from their parents and often re-experiencing grief as they develop into adults
- Death of another loved one causes them to recall grief – experience again on top of new grief
[Source: Helping Children Grieve DVD, Paraclete Press]
The short answer is “yes”. Research demonstrates that there are differences between bereavement (loss) due to suicide and bereavement due to other types of death. Specifically there are three things that set it apart. First, bereavement after a suicide is usually characterized by shock followed by an intense need to make sense of the reasons for the death. Second, exposure to suicide does appear to increase the risk of suicide in the survivor. And third, the social attitudes toward those who have lost their loved ones to suicide by others in the community tend to be more negative, often judgmental with no basis to judge, and much less supportive than other deaths. (Source: Grief After Suicide, Edited by John Jordon, John McIntosh, page 23)
Here are a few interesting myths/facts about suicide:
Suicide only strikes people of a certain gender, race, financial status, religious persuasion, age, etc.
Suicide can strike anyone.
People who attempt suicide are crazy.
No. They are in pain, and probably have a chemical imbalance in their brain. Anyone could attempt suicide.
People who attempt suicide are weak.
No. Again, remember they are in pain and likely have a chemical imbalance in their brain. Many people who are very “strong” die by suicide.
Hospice of Lenawee offers support for those who struggle with the loss of loved ones by suicide. If you, or if you know others who could benefit by added support, please call 263-2323 and ask to speak to someone in the Bereavement Center.
Though I’m not a particular fan of flying I always take note of the seat belt, floatation cushion and oxygen mask demonstration by the Flight Attendants. They’ve done it hundreds, if not thousands of times. I can only think it is not only repetitious but also boring for them (it’s boring for me, too). But what an important message!
Suddenly the cabin pressure drops and the oxygen masks release from the compartment above! You hear a roaring sound and feel the rushing of air. Flying six miles high there’s not enough oxygen to sustain human life. Your three year old is sitting next to you. Whose mask are you going to fit first? The answer, of course, if you want both of you to live is to put your mask on first.
When we are caring for someone with a life limiting illness we often fail to take care of ourselves, and end up taking worse care of our loved one. We have our reasons, for sure. No one can do a better job than me of taking care of my spouse. What would my loved one think if I actually chose to sleep through the night and let a stranger (perhaps a hospice volunteer) stay bedside? I need to forgo seeing our newly born great grandchild because I can’t leave my loved one’s side for a day. I could never consider a week of hospice provided respite care because my loved one would have to be in a nursing home for that time.
Whether it is accepting help from our nurses who are experts in symptom and pain management, our aides who assist with activities of daily living (ADL’s), our social works who work their magic in helping with family issues and even some financial problems, or our spiritual care coordinators who understand the importance of our connectedness with others and with God, it is our constant desire to assist caregivers with ongoing support, as well as breaks from the heavy lifting of caring for their loved ones, supports that are available through Hospice of Lenawee. These supports are the “oxygen masks” that are in place to help you provide even better care for your loved one. The rule of thumb is if you are able to take care of yourself, you will provide better care for your loved one.
Men often get mixed signals when it comes to expressing grief. The message they receive growing up is to take loss “like a man.” When they reach adulthood, though, the messages become contradictory. Tom Golden, L.C.S.W., internationally known grief counselor, sees grieving families in which the wife and children are crying, but the husband is not. The family is worried because dad isn’t crying. Yet if he does, they get upset. Although a wife may be relieved that her partner is able to grieve, she may fear that his tears somehow lessen him as the stalwart of strength she holds him to be. Thus, men are criticized when they don’t grieve, and their masculinity is questioned when they do.
Biological differences also offer some insight into why men grieve the way they do. Compared with women, men have less prolactin, a hormone excreted by the pituitary gland, which is associated with emotional tears. Boys and girls have equal amounts until about age 12, then the level in boys plummets as testosterone levels rise.
[Excerpted from the article “Big Boys Don’t Cry: How Men Grieve” by Deborah Mitchell – read entire article at Is Soma Good for Back Pain]