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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.

Geoff Koglin
Director of Bereavement Services
Hospice of Lenawee

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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]

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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:

  • Myth
    Suicide only strikes people of a certain gender, race, financial status, religious persuasion, age, etc.
    Suicide can strike anyone.
  • Myth
    People who attempt suicide are crazy.

    No. They are in pain, and probably have a chemical imbalance in their brain. Anyone could attempt suicide.
  • Myth
    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.

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  • MYTH: The pain will go away faster if you ignore it.
    Trying to ignore one’s pain or keep it from surfacing only makes it worse in the long run. For real healing it is necessary to embrace the pain of one’s grief and actively deal with it. A Quick Analogy: Often the darkness of grief can close in around a person, and like the approaching darkness of evening, we can futilely try to run toward the fading light of the setting sun. However, if we chose to run into and embrace the darkness of our pain, the bright morning light of the sun will shine sooner.
  • MYTH: It’s important to be “be strong” in the face of loss.
    Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely are normal reactions to loss. Crying doesn’t mean one is weak. Though it is true that outwardly mourning of one’s loss can cause others to feel uncomfortable (they may not know what to say or do), one doesn’t need to “protect” family or friends by putting on a brave front. Showing one’s true feelings can help them and you.
  • MYTH: If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss or you aren’t dealing with your grief.
    Indeed, crying is a normal response to grief. Yet, it is important to understand that crying is not the only expression or reaction to grief. Some are rather stoic, and while still experiencing grief in the inside, choose to outwardly mourn differently. Some people will talk about their loss… others will write or journal… others will think deeply… but for most of us, we do a mixture of the above.
  • MYTH: Grief should last about a year.
    Grief has no time table; in fact, people often report that the second year is harder than the first. How long grief remains intense varies from person to person based on many factors – length and closeness of the relationship, amount of interdependency, depth of love, previous loss history, personality type, worldview, age, circumstances surrounding the death… just to name a few.

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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.

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Mixed signals
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.

Physical differences
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]

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The pain of grief is a very natural response to the loss of someone you love. It is also very individual. None of us grieve in exactly the same way. At Hospice of Lenawee, we can help you through your grieving process in a way that is best for you so that through acceptance you can regain hope and continue along your journey of life. It is not about us telling you how you should feel; it is about helping you, on our own terms, find a way to reconnect to life beyond your grief.

We serve all those who need our help coping with serious illness; whether it is your own or someone near and dear to you.

We know that a serious illness can impact every aspect of your life.

We offer resources, information, guidance and support to help with physical changes as well as emotional challenges and stresses that come with illness. Hope will be regained when you feel empowered by knowledge, and a connection to those who understand your world.

Whether individual counseling or more of a community group environment is best for your needs, we offer a variety of choices all designed to reduce your struggle and get you back to where you want to be—living a full life. We provide resources and education to all those who might be affected by a serious illness. We help people of all ages regain hope and move forward in life.

Many individuals tell us they wish they had reached out to the Hospice of Lenawee sooner. That once they understood the support, connection and hope they found here, that life for them changed.

We focus on the practical side of your journey, on the living side. Our goal is to improve your quality of living by addressing the daily issues you face. Many tell us that when they learned of their illness they felt shock, fear, and loss. The ongoing stress of coping and adjusting can be a lot to deal with.

We help people find their way in the unfamiliar territory they find themselves in when diagnosed with an illness.

For information on the Grief Support and Grief Resources Hospice of Lenawee has available, please visit our can i take carisoprodol with vicodin.