8 tips for understanding the ‘netiquette’ of death and grief

By Mark Ray

When Carla Sofka’s mother died just before Thanksgiving 2017, Sofka didn’t immediately post the news on social media. She was busy planning the funeral, making travel arrangements and getting an obituary ready for the weekly newspaper in her mother’s community.

“We had 23 hours to get the information to them if we didn’t want it to be 10 days before Mom’s obituary was in the local paper,” said Sofka, a professor of social work at Siena College in Loudonville, New York.

Then the phone rang.

Unbeknownst to Sofka, the funeral home had posted the obituary on its website, and almost immediately a childhood friend had spotted it and shared it on Sofka’s Facebook page.

“The minute that obituary showed up on my feed, people who saw it started posting comments and messages to me,” she said. “I didn’t even know this was going on, because I didn’t know it was there.”

What makes Sofka’s story ironic is that she has been writing and teaching about the impact of technology on grief and dying for decades. She even coined the term “thanatechnology” (“thana-” means death in Greek) in 1997. But in her moment of grief, she never thought to say to the funeral director, “Please don’t post Mom’s obituary on your website until we tell you that we’ve notified the people who need to find out another way.” (By the way, that funeral home now asks families whether posting is okay.)

Lee Poskanzer, CEO of Directive Communication Systems, which helps clients safeguard digital assets in their estates, experienced a more pleasant Facebook surprise in 2010 when he posted news of his mother’s death on Facebook.

“A very close friend of mine, who I would never have thought about calling, actually hopped on a plane and was able to make my mom’s funeral the next day,” he said.

The Social Media Rules Have Changed

As Poskanzer and Sofka’s stories illustrate, digital technologies have changed the rules surrounding grief and dying.

“How does one decipher a uniform approach when our society is using technology in so many diverse ways and each one of us has a different approach to our online presence and our digital footprint?” Poskanzer asked.

Fortunately, experts like Poskanzer and Sofka have begun answering those questions. While the landscape is still shifting, it’s possible to discern some basic rules of “netiquette.”

Here are eight tips about death and social media:

1. Leave the scoops to CNN and Fox News. If you’ve heard about a death but haven’t seen a Facebook post from the next of kin, that could be because family members are still trying to contact people who need to hear the news firsthand. Sofka said a good question to ask yourself is, “Is it your story to tell?”

2. Think before you post. Even when it’s appropriate to share, make sure what you’re sharing is appropriate. Don’t post painful or disturbing information without the family’s consent — and even then consider whether sharing is appropriate. “We may not recognize that we could be harming someone by posting or tweeting or putting a picture on Instagram,” Poskanzer said.

3. Avoid being cryptic. Nuance vanishes in cyberspace. A post that said “I’m praying for the Johnson family at this difficult time” could refer to anything from a death to a job loss to a house fire. “You have to know the poster in order to understand a little bit where they’re coming from,” Poskanzer said. When in doubt, pick up the phone.

4. Remember that news travels fast. When Sofka’s aunt died unexpectedly, she elected not to tell her teenage daughter, who was on vacation in Florida and didn’t know her great aunt well. Unfortunately, cousins began posting stories about the deceased woman on Facebook, so Sofka’s daughter quickly found out and wanted to know what was happening. “I can’t believe I didn’t expect that,” Sofka said.

5. Be patient. “Sometimes people watch how many people like a post or how quickly they acknowledge it,” Sofka said. “Somebody who’s grieving doesn’t have the time or energy to focus on that.” And if you’re on the other side of the situation, consider posting something like Sofka did after her mother’s passing: “I’m overwhelmed by the caring and the kindness of the postings. Please forgive me if I don’t have time to respond right now.”

6. Watch out for problems. Unfortunately, online death notices can attract everything from negative comments to fraudulent GoFundMe campaigns allegedly set up to pay for funeral expenses. “As family members and friends, if we see that, we need to contact the family immediately so somebody can contact GoFundMe,” Poskanzer said.

7. Be helpful — but not too helpful. It’s fine to offer to monitor the family’s online presence for problems, but don’t go too far. Poskanzer recalls a woman whose husband had just passed away. “While she was sitting shiva (mourning in the Jewish tradition), somebody had memorialized the page to her husband’s Facebook,” he said. As a result, the grieving woman no longer had access to the page. Facebook also has information about legacy contacts; people chosen in advance to oversee memorialized accounts.

8. Adjust your response to the situation. Poskanzer lost a friend recently who was very active on social media — to the point of chronicling her cancer battle online — so sending online condolences after she died made sense. On the other hand, Sofka talked with a woman who’s not active on social media and had recently lost her father. “She said, ‘Nobody sent cards; that was the hardest thing for me, because if felt like nobody cared,’” Sofka recalls.

As the rules of netiquette change — funeral selfies, anyone? — perhaps the best rule to follow is the Golden Rule: Blog, post and tweet about others as you would have them blog, post and tweet about you.

Complete Article HERE!

Yes, Grief Can Make You Horny

Craving sex is an awkward but deeply human response to one of life’s worst moments.

by Hannah Smothers

Death is, in general, a bummer, and there’s nothing really “sexy” about it. Yet some percentage of people find themselves improbably motivated to fuck as they mourn the loss of a loved one. It turns out that grief, the emotion that should be the least horny, is actually…quite horny.

This is kind of an uncomfortable premise, which could perhaps explain the (very disappointing!!!) lack of substantial, peer-reviewed research on this topic. (One of the only studies in the horny grief vein focuses on “sexual bereavement,” and basically just establishes that people who lose their long-term sexual partners will miss the feeling of sex, and not just the person they shared it with.) Therapists and sex researchers, though, say it’s a normal and fine thing to feel inexplicably horned up after someone close dies. “It’s really about filling the void — literally and figuratively,” Patti Britton, a clinical sexologist and sexuality educator, told Mel Magazine in 2018. “The grief trajectory is about a loss of closeness — a loss of intimacy. That’s why our libido kicks in: To fill that void.”

This makes sense. Living through the death of a loved one can put people in a very YOLO state of mind; faced with the fleetingness of life, you may as well bone while you can. It’s like humping away as the world burns around you (which is…kinda what we are already doing right now). Life will end, and so perhaps the way to feel most alive (at least for some people) is to smoosh your parts against another warm-blooded person.

But beyond filling a void, grief sex is also a pretty solid distraction from the pain and/or numbness that death brings. “The body becomes quite broken [after a death], and having sex— decent sex—drives the dopamine system,” Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, told VICE. “Any stimulation of the genitals drives the dopamine system in the brain, which gives feelings of optimism, energy, focus, and motivation.” The flood of dopamine can, at least for a little while, calm you down, Fisher explained.

Writer Anjali Pinto echoes this theory in an April 2018 essay she wrote in the Washington Post. Writing about the string of sexual encounters she started five months after the sudden death of her husband, Pinto describes a “rush of feel-good chemicals [that] created an overwhelming sense of happiness, even amid my loneliness.”

But more than the biological thrill of the dopamine hit that comes from good, consensual sex, Pinto wrote that seeking out casual flings with strangers gave her a sense of control in an otherwise bleak time. “Having sex with strangers healed me in ways that therapy, friendship, travel, writing and photography could not,” she writes. “These encounters made me feel empowered, desirable and more in tune with my body. They gave me agency when my life felt out of my control.”

Of course some people in “””polite society””” are going to poo-poo the banging of strangers (or banging anyone, TBH) in the aftermath of a major traumatic event, Pinto noted. Sex, especially when a woman is doing it, is still just taboo enough to feel like a manic response to a bad thing. But, I don’t know, man… losing a spouse is like a top-five bad thing that can happen to a person. Losing any loved one is. Barring legitimately destructive or dangerous behavior, it sort of seems like someone going through that hell of an experience should be able to do whatever it takes to feel better. As the saying goes, ‘Everyone grieves differently.” And experts say that some people grieve by boinking. That seems, in the grand scheme of things, very fine.

Complete Article HERE!

The Grief We Avoid

Is The Grief That We Need

By

Sometimes we block our blessings when we avoid grief instead of welcoming it.

Running away from pain was a trick I learned at an early age.

When I was a kid, I was surrounded by adults that scared me about making my own choices because they were so sure it was all going to lead to pain. Being exposed to that kind of life tactic all my life gave me the impression that grieving is a negative experience, and anything negative was not the best feeling in the world.

I am the kind of person who needs to know why? What is the logic behind it? What rational explanation do you have that can convince my mind? I need to be educated so I could make informed decisions. But they just saw me as a child, a child who should follow what they say.

Having nobody to teach me about love and life properly, I just assumed that when it hurts — you have to push it down or

AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS.

As I grew up, I navigated through my existence, making so many mistakes, failing at every turn, and breaking my heart every single time. I ran away from the pain by depending on numbing agents like shopping, eating my feelings, sleeping, watching TV, or seeking love from people who would only hurt me in the end anyway.

But you know what they say, what you do not repair, you repeat.

Repeating those patterns for years cost me my heart, my soul, and myself. I was functioning daily, but I was like a zombie. I lost sight of who I was; I was nobody but a conscious passenger with no control of over my own body. It was no way to live, and I badly wanted to put an end to this disturbing cycle.

They always said that you’d get farther in life if you’re brave enough to take the risk and ask smart questions. The only way I could do this was to put my foot down and take charge, look within myself, and deal with my fear of being alone with my thoughts and feelings.

From that moment, I realized that I’ve been going about it all wrong. Running away and avoiding pain was like drowning in quicksand. The more you move around and try so hard to get out of it, the more you sink.

I learned that the most effective way to cope with grief and pain is

BE AWARE.

When we start to feel pain, we kind of panic, don’t we? We know it hurts and we want to get rid of it FAST! But the thing is, we won’t know how to get rid of anything if we don’t know what caused it in the first place. We need to make ourselves aware by asking:

  • Why are we actually in pain? (Was it our fault? Is it hurting us or our ego? Is it pain or guilt?)
  • What caused grief?
  • Are there other healthy alternatives to solve what caused it in the first place?

ADMIT IT YOU ARE IN PAIN WITHOUT SHAME.

A lot of us are so afraid to admit we are grieving for fear that people may see us as weak or stupid for feeling that way. Honestly, I can’t blame you. In my experience, there were people in my life who would laugh at my grief. They would tell me I deserved to suffer.

I consoled myself by holding my pain prisoner inside of me, but you hold on to your anger for so long the lines tend to blur. At first, you are the one holding it captive. You think you are still in control, the next thing you know the grief has detained you.

Hiding behind your grief like you are the dirty secret is a way of giving up your power, and allowing your emotions to take control over you. We must remember, it is only a feeling; it comes and goes.

There is power in admitting you are in pain. Put your foot down, take charge, and free yourself from the grief that has taken you hostage.

BEFRIEND YOUR GRIEF

Ever noticed that when you are in the company of someone you cannot stand, sharing a room with them for an hour seems like a thousand years?

You want it to be over ASAP.

That is how it feels when we are grieving. We want it to be over because having that awful feeling makes days seem to go by slower, the sky is gloomy, and food seems to have lost its taste.

We want to get back to the rainbow and cotton candy stage.

But to be honest, befriending your grief is the easiest way to make it go away. Treat it how you would treat a good friend.

Get to know it, look forward to the lessons each decibel of grief is trying to teach you, enjoy its company and just like a good old friend — you will realize that the time you have spent with each other was not enough, but they have to go.

You will say your goodbyes, and you give thanks for imparting you with all the wisdom you gained during your short time together.

Grief doesn’t come into our lives to punish us; it occurs when we need to be taught a lesson that helps us break the vicious cycle of mourning and recycling pain from reliving toxic patterns.

At the end of it all, grief isn’t all bad. Grief exists to help us shed older and weaker versions of ourselves so we can grow into a person who’s braver, stronger and capable of reaching our full potential.

Complete Article HERE!

A Lesson of Death

Different Is Not Less

Tony and his daughter, Katie, who was 23 at the time of Jonny’s death, share their journey through the liminal space in this book, told from the two very different perspectives of Tony and Katie.

By

Tony Rose, the co-author of Beautiful Grief, shares a lesson he learned upon the death of his 28-year-old son.

Jonny was a month and a day shy of his twenty-ninth birthday when my wife, Chris, found him dead in our pool house. This was four years ago, and it began my experience with vast differentness.

“Jonny is dead,” she told me over the phone. I was in Oregon golfing with my friend when she called.

Chris’s phone call—and Jonny’s death—began a journey through what I came to know as the “liminal space.” The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning “a threshold.” The liminal space is the place wherein you have left one phase—one set of rituals or traditions—but have not yet established new rituals. You no longer hold your pre-ritual status, but you have not yet begun to transition to a new status of rites and rituals.

During the liminal space, you are standing on the threshold between your previous way and what will become your new way.

When someone you love dies, it is as if a tsunami has hit. The world as you know ceases to exist, so the word “different” feels like an understatement. When you enter the liminal space because of grief, you begin the process of being something new. The liminal space can seem permanent, and certainly so when grief accompanies it. This loss of a person or a relationship or an extreme shift in conditions—this differentness—changes the dynamic and balance of your life in such a profound way that the circumstances of joy that persisted before the liminal space cannot be recaptured.

This loss can seem enduring. After all, how can you be okay when the joy you once had can never again be realized?

Jonny’s death created a different world for me. My life is not the same as it was before he died. He does not sit in his seat at the table during holidays. I will not attend his wedding. Never will his laugh fill my ears again.

When he died, this difference felt, at first, staggering. It was as though my boat had crashed, and the ocean was tossing me around.

But as the months and years passed, I began to realize that the differences in my life were not differences of a lesser quality. They were differences of a different quality. I have more sadness than I had before Jonny died, but my joy is deeper. I notice moments that I would not have noticed before Jonny died, and I notice that my feelings are becoming purer and more accessible.

Here is just one example: I was recently honored to be a guest at the wedding of an employee, Carmen. To be honest, before Carmen’s wedding, her fiancé, Fernando, was an acquaintance. He and I had met a handful of times prior to the wedding. We had exchanged small talk and pleasantries. I liked Fernando, but had Jonny not died, I am certain that his wedding with Carmen would never have been as extraordinary as it ended up being. Absent the differences in me that occurred due to Jonny’s death, Fernando would still be a person I think of as an acquaintance.

Yet, I can say without a doubt that I will never forget watching Fernando dance with his mother on his wedding day. I found myself crying, watching a mother so tenderly celebrate the love and happiness she felt for her adult son, mixed with the bittersweet emotion of seeing her baby turn into a man.

I watched them dancing, aware that I will never have a memory of Jonny dancing with his own mother but sure that had Jonny not died, I would never have recognized the beauty and the quiet confluence of melancholy and joy that existed in that moment.

It was—even as I think about it now—a moment that will always move me.

There’s no question in my mind that it was almost as consequential as Jonny’s birth itself. I will remember Fernando dancing with his mother until my dying day.

I can, at this very instant, see a picture of them dancing in my mind.

As I watched them, it occurred to me that those empty places that I thought would never be filled can be filled if I let them. They will be filled with something different, but not something less.

Watching Fernando dance with his own mother did not have to be a reminder of what I did not have: It was better as a great substitute, a beautiful replacement, a differentness, for a hole that would otherwise be vacant—a small, surprising moment I could treasure in my mind as its own memory.

This is the closest I have come to being grateful for the context given to me by Jonny’s death. It was the first time I really articulated that there would be many glorious moments to come. They will be different than I would have imagined four years ago, but they need not be less.

Tony and his daughter, Katie.

I began to realize that the moments did not have to come from my wife, Chris, or from my daughter, Katie, or from me, or even from someone in my immediate circle—they could come from an acquaintance. I could share in a moment with my employee’s fiancé and his mother—a moment that he will never forget, but equally, a moment that I will never forget.

I could have thought, Jonny will never dance with his mom, and I would have missed the moment between Fernando and his mother. I would have equated different with less.

Instead, I was able to share in a beautiful moment between Fernando, Carmen, and their families. Absent the context of Jonny’s death, I would have been an attendee at Fernando and Carmen’s wedding. Given the context of Jonny’s death, I was a participant.

The world, and all of the moments that unfolded at that wedding, seemed so much richer, with more depth of color, than I could have otherwise seen them.

Would I trade this to spend time in the company of my son? Of course I would. But I do also hold that my memories of Jonny, and the new memories I have made since his death, are not of a lesser quality.

I think this is important to remember because differences happen. We change jobs or move to new cities. We become parents, and then we become empty nesters. We divorce. People we love die.

What I observe of people who are grieving is that they sometimes choose to dwell on the fact that their life is different, and they stop there. Instead of saying, “Oh, this is different. I am going to experience life in a different way,” they say, “Oh, this is less. My life is less. I will never be okay because my life is so different than it was before.”

My experience is that when you decide that different and less are synonymous, you fail to see the moments. You cannot see joy and beauty when you have already decided that your life is less-than.

For me, the ocean has settled. As I look around, the view is new. It is also beautiful, rich with colors I have never before seen.

Complete Article HERE!

How Cannabis Helped Me Cope With Grief

By Emma Stone

My father passed away from cancer six weeks ago. The days after his death were characterized by the expected: disbelief, morbid Hallmark cards extending condolences, and dishes of limp lasagna left at the door. But the period following his passing was also colored by the unexpected.

I wasn’t expecting panic or anxiety. Nor was I expecting derailing flashbacks to the last week in the hospital, night after night of insomnia, or the decimation of my formerly robust immune system. In short, I wasn’t expecting grief.

Theoretically, I knew grief happened after a significant loss. I’d just somehow made it to 34 years of age without ever really experiencing it firsthand. In essence, grief is a common emotional response to a distressing situation. But although it’s normal, it can be utterly annihilating. Grief gathers up feelings and experiences—that are challenging enough to deal with on their own—into one giant, messy package that spills out over everything.

A Small Piece of Cannabis-Infused Fudge

Deep down, I knew the grief and pain I was experiencing was something I had to work through. “The cure for the pain is in the pain,” says the poet Rumi. I wasn’t looking for benzodiazepines, antidepressants, or anti-anxiety meds to numb the feelings. But I did feel like I’d benefit from something that would allow me to elevate myself from the depths of the grief swamp, make sense of it, and muddle through the funeral and weeks that followed.

I found it in my refrigerator. One small piece of cannabis-infused fudge forged a small window of space in my head, allowing me to observe what was going on both inside and outside. A sense of peace descended, and I slept four hours that night.

Any grief-stricken person will tell you that grief can place you at the behest of your emotions, causing you to swing wildly between panic, sadness, regret, and anger. Compound this with sleep deprivation, and your ability to reflect and retain a sense of perspective is severely compromised. Ironically, a functioning reflective faculty is one of the things a grieving person misses most.

During the week leading up to the funeral and for a few days after, nuggets of fudge provided not an escape, but elevated respite. Throughout the constant coming-and-going of family, friends, funeral directors, and total randoms who stayed lingering long after they’d worn out their welcome, cannabis was my grief aid, helping me find presence in the moment. Those little nibbles of fudge enabled me to appraise the more challenging events with a sense of equilibrium and calm.

Openness to Insight and Meaning

Mickey Nulf, a cannabis educator and patient consultant, leaned into cannabis after he lost his mother to a drug overdose. For Nulf, cannabis helped him to confront his grief in a healthy way.

“Cannabis kept my mind level as I was being rushed with emotions from the feelings of grief and sadness that I had. It allowed me to feel the feelings, but understand them at the same time,” explains Nulf. “It kept my anxiety down while the grief hit, and encouraged me to actually deal with the grief instead of just burying it.”

Grief is often tinged with moments of profound insight and meaning, and openness to these moments can make testing times easier to weather. Nulf recalls the most impactful moment he experienced was seeing his mom lying in the funeral home. “I hadn’t cried before then but cannabis allowed me to experience those feelings again. I dropped to my knees and cried for my mom. I was sad she was gone; sad that I didn’t get the chance to say ‘I love you,’” he reflects.

Nulf believes cannabis enabled him to access his feelings fully, which was essential to making sense of his mother’s death. “I was able to process the loss, and understand that the picture was greater than the loss,” he recalls. “I could see the tragedy but find happiness through it. It was a first for me in my lifetime.”

An Expert’s Opinion

But what do the experts think? While there are no clinical studies exploring cannabis use and grief, there is plenty of interest. “Currently, there is promising preliminary evidence about the efficacy of medical cannabis in the treatment of these conditions, all of which are hallmark features that characterize the constellation of grief symptoms,” observes Dr. Rahul Khare, MD, an expert on the medical applications of cannabis.

Large-scale clinical trials, however, are needed to draw firmer conclusions. It’s also vital to acknowledge that studies indicate that a grieving individual is more vulnerable to substance abuse, dependency, and addiction. A recent study also suggests that cannabis use among individuals with depression can be problematic and prevent them from seeking proper psychiatric care. Cannabis may straddle a fine line between helpful aid and problematic crutch.

Dr. Khare suggests that the key may be to combine cannabis with appropriate mental healthcare. “Although it is controversial, the current evidence suggests an overall promising relationship in the treatment of grief with medical cannabis, if such treatment is paired with proper psychiatric and mental healthcare by licensed professionals,” he reflects.

Khare is optimistic that cannabis could represent a powerful tool for helping with grief in the future. “In my personal experience treating patients with medical cannabis, I have found a marked decrease in the use of antidepressant medication as well as a reduction in opioid and benzodiazepine use as well,” he states. “I believe with further research, a more definitive link between the efficacious uses of cannabis for grief will be unveiled.”

Complete Article HERE!

I will never forget my grandma’s last days, surrounded by people who were half shaman, half scientist, and all good

We expected Nana to die years ago. When she finally went, it was both sadder and sweeter than we were prepared for

By

I knew it was coming; I had known it was coming for years. I had seen my friends go through it, and I had spent many hours thinking deeply about what would happen. Comforted by theories on the nature of consciousness, seduced by feasible rationales for an afterlife, sobered by the practical science of what was really going to happen, I was prepared. And then she died.

My nana had been ill for a long time. Her final diagnosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, came 12 years before she died, although the prognosis was no more than four. She had come close so many times that we had started calling her “the boomerang”. But when she went into hospital for the last time, although in our heads we constructed logical expectations of her coming back to us, in our hearts we knew she wasn’t coming home.

Losing someone close to you is something you can only really talk about once it has happened. All the cliches about grief that I had heard over the years became my reality. Half an hour after she died, my cousin Elliot and I sat in the hospital coffee shop, exhausted, paralysed, silently delirious, while a tiny white butterfly fluttered around our heads, flew a full circle above us and disappeared. Over the next week, the appearance of white butterflies comforted each member of my family at different times in some ineffable way. Despite our wildly varying degrees of faith, that delicate symbol soothed us with an understanding that she was OK: whether she was on a cloud with her brothers and parents, united on an unknown spiritual plane with a greater force as part of a universal consciousness, or just gone, she was no longer in pain.

It was very sad, of course, and that is the best it was ever going to be. The reason I say “the best” is that, if it were not for the acutely careful preparations of us all, including Nana, it could have been far worse.

Palliative care should not be as taboo or scary as it is to many of us. I would go as far as to say that it is the ultimate in wellbeing practices, when a person’s health has failed and all that can be done is care. The word “palliative” comes from the Latin pallium, a cloak, and in many ways this metaphor is apt. In the last days, a “syringe driver” delivered her a steady flow of morphine and anti-anxiety drugs that concealed the worst of her symptoms, shielded her from their effects, protected her from the pain, and even hid her from death for a few more hours or days. If she had not had that, she would have died of hypoxia on the Thursday, gasping violently for breath as she drowned in carbon dioxide that her lungs were too weak to exhale. Instead, she went on until the following Tuesday, my auntie’s birthday, not before she had me write in her card: “Life is worth living because you’re my daughter.” When she finally passed, it was a moment of peace.

(Note to doctors: if it could be called anything other than a “syringe driver”, I think everyone would be much happier. My bampy (grandfather) in particular was unnerved by the name and was initially convinced that it was going to speed up her death.)

On the Saturday, when we all first expected her to go, we played her favourite songs at her bedside: lots of Maria Callas and Ella Fitzgerald, and (who knew?!) Hot Chocolate’s No Doubt About It, a song that recounts Errol Brown’s alien visitation. We were gifted the time to rejoice with her in what made her joyful, emotional and eccentric. As she appeared to slip away, our tear-stained faces fixed around her in uncontainable smiles, sure that the hour had come, she boomeranged back again, just in time for The Chase.

Memories of moments in her final days are precious and I am gratefully aware of how lucky my family and I are to have had them. They exist because of palliative-care specialists. What a mystically unique role: part scientist, part shaman; half doctor, half priest; with careful words held equally as important as the careful drugs. Never hard-heartedly functional, and never “compulsively positive”, it is as if they are of the same station as midwives, just on the other end. I am profoundly moved by this practice. The UK is reportedly the best in the world at end-of-life care, which is cause to be proud, and there are calls from both the International Association of Research in Cancer and the World Health Organization to declare palliative care a human right.

As someone whose first close bereavement was sort-of-sweet-sad but without regret, I support these proposals wholeheartedly. I wish that all people could be treated with such deep compassion and humanity. I sincerely hope that, when it is my time to die, my family and I will be helped to prepare in the same caring, tender way that my grandmother and family were in Llandough on a long weekend in July.

Complete Article HERE!

How to Cope with Anticipatory Grief at Work

By Sabina Nawaz

At the end of a hectic travel season, I was looking forward to a four-day weekend. Right before boarding the plane for home, my phone rang. It was my mother’s assisted living facility. My stomach always tightened when their number displayed on my phone, but usually it would quickly ease. Not this time. Instead of the routine, “Your mother’s fine; we’re calling to inform you about…” this time the nurse said, “Your mother has stopped eating.”

My mother was at the end of her 15-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease and her life. Mom, who used to be an English professor, now had a vocabulary in the single digits. I knew that her quality of life was continually declining. Yet news of her imminent demise was a gut punch. I was thankful for the break in my travel so I could be with her and offer her as much comfort as possible.

Mom and one of my best friends died within a year of each other. In each case, I knew they were going to die, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to experience anticipatory grief — a distinct type of grief different than the grief we experience after a loss. Anticipatory grief involves coming to terms with the impending event, learning how to incorporate it into our reality, and planning our good-byes.

In our society, there is little accommodation for the intensity and duration of the grieving process. The typical length of bereavement leave is three to five days. There is even less institutional support for anticipatory grief. Neither my consulting work with numerous companies nor my research on grief support has uncovered any concrete data on workplace benefits specifically designed to help employees through a season of imminent loss. There are generic family care leave policies in place at about 67% of companies worldwide. A few days of paid leave is typical; additional unpaid leave of several weeks or more is sometimes available. In the U.S., the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for 12 weeks of job-and-benefit protected leave for certain kinds of family care needs. It’s unpaid and restrictions apply — for example, the employer must have 50 or more employees in the location for an employee to be eligible. Other criteria mean that many people don’t have access, and even if it is available, many employees may be financially unable to take unpaid time off.

What’s more, even when a death is expected, the timing is unpredictable, and the process may be prolonged. You likely need or want to continue working for the duration but may require special considerations. Your boss and colleagues know that they’ll cover for you when you attend the funeral, but how much space will they give you prior to the death?

Each person’s circumstances and reactions are different. The death of someone close impacts our personal life and relationships in myriad ways, making extra demands on our time and emotional well-being. In response, we can feel depleted at work. But there are ways that you can better manage both anticipatory grief and your workload, so the process is less draining. The following suggestions reflect my recent dealings at work while experiencing anticipatory grief.

  • Prepare your colleagues. Many people won’t know how to respond when you announce the anticipated death of a loved one. Be explicit about what you’d prefer in your interactions to garner the support you need. After my long weekend, I was scheduled to teach an intense three-day leadership class with a few colleagues. I needed to be fully present for the class participants and my fellow course leaders. I explained my mom’s situation to one of my colleagues, Liz, and asked her to inform the others. I also said that it would help me most if no one mentioned the situation during the class or treated me differently than they normally would. Receiving their empathy when I needed to focus on work would likely make me dissolve into a puddle of tears. In a different setting, talking about an impending loss with an empathetic colleague might be both comfortable and helpful.
  • Create a plan B. You won’t know exactly when you’ll be needed at home — whether it is before or after your loss — so create a backup plan for work. How many people you ask for help will depend on how open you want to be about what you’re going through. Perhaps you choose just one trusted colleague or discuss a plan with your boss or you distribute the load by asking smaller favors of multiple coworkers. For the class I was teaching, Liz and I mapped out how she and our colleagues would divide up the session and handle breakout discussions if I had to leave on short notice.
  • Ask for a second set of eyes. There’s a lot on your mind during major life events. Give yourself space — particularly when you might not be performing at your usual high level. Ask a colleague to double check important items in your work. This could prevent a costly mistake, and your teammates will be glad to have tangible ways to support you. In the weeks leading up to my friend’s and my mom’s deaths, I found myself forgetting many things and making mistakes. In one instance, I arrived for lunch with a friend and realized that I hadn’t brought my wallet. On another occasion, I asked a colleague to review terms in an important work proposal before submitting. He found an error that would have cost me $2,000. Mistakes don’t mean we’ve quit caring about our work; it’s normal to experience brain fog during a crisis.
  • Seek support for your loved one. You may want to be with your loved one all the time, but you may also have to attend to needs at work. It’s easy to feel guilty in your personal situation and inefficient at work — an emotional toll that’s hard to sustain over time. Ask friends to stand in for you so you can concentrate on your task. Trusted friends visited my mom, held her hand, and read to her. It was easier for me to tackle pressing work when I knew loving helpers were reading Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” and Marc Anthony’s speech from Julius Caesar to Mom. And being able to give my full attention to work allowed me to complete it more quickly and return to my mother that much faster.
  • Identify permanent no’s. Expecting someone you care about to die brings your priorities into sharp focus. Suddenly, it’s easier to remove yourself from a noisy distribution list or miss that meeting you wondered why you were attending in the first place. As you say “no” in the short term, take this clarifying opportunity to say no permanently to low-impact activities that have become unquestioned habits.

Loss is inevitable in a life well lived. We accrue abundance through our relationships and experiences, but we also inevitably lose some of our treasured people. Creating space to take care of yourself and your obligations in the face of upcoming losses allows you to manifest a different sort of gain in your life: peace of mind, emotional well-being, and acceptance of loss over the long term.

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