03/14/18

What is the best way to explain death to a child?

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The popularity of bestselling memoirs such as When Breath Becomes Air and The Bright Hour, both meditations on death by authors who died young, suggest that death is a topic many of us like to think about (while alone, reading silently) – yet, it is still a subject many of us are woefully bad at talking about, particularly when it comes to discussing it with kids.

We all need a better “death education,” says Dr. Kathy Kortes-Miller, an associate professor of social work at Ontario’s Lakehead University and author of the new book Talking About Death Won’t Kill You: The Essential Guide to End-of-Life Conversations. Like a new website launched last November by the Canadian Virtual Hospice, the book takes what remains a taboo subject and shows how to talk about it openly and honestly. The Globe and Mail’s Dave McGinn spoke to Kortes-Miller about having that conversation with children.

Why do we have such difficulty talking to children about death?

As parents we are cultured and conditioned to protect our children. Our generation, we didn’t really learn how to talk about it. Before I was a parent, I was really good at talking to children about dying and death. And then I became a parent myself and found that it was a lot harder than I thought it was.

What’s the risk of ignoring the subject, or not bringing it up unless they do?

It keeps it as an unknown and as a scary and almost a taboo topic. We [need to] recognize that this is a transition event in our life and one that we can prepare for and one that we can learn about, and by doing so, that’s going to help us to live life more fully and prepare ourselves for the end of life.

What is the best way to explain death to a child?

It depends on the age of the child, of course. But one of the ways to do it is by looking around at nature. Kids are inquisitive. They’re interested in how things die and what happens to them. So often they’ll see things in nature and ask questions. Those are really good ways to get the conversation started. As they get a little bit older they start to watch TV and they start to read books. There is a lot of dying and death in media that children are exposed to, and those are also really good conversation starters.

You mention that nature often presents an opportunity to talk about death. I’ve been guilty of telling my kids a dead squirrel they saw was just sleeping.

That’s an easy one to do. We’re almost scared to use the D words – dead, dying and death. But we confuse them if we use euphemisms. Having worked with young kids in a counselling role as a social worker in a hospice unit, when we talk about “oh, grandpa’s just gone for the big sleep,” instead of he’s died, kids get nightmares. Kids don’t want to go to bed at night because grandpa went to sleep and he didn’t wake up.

When a child wonders what death is, is there a good description of the physical process that won’t scare kids?

I would sometimes talk about it from a physiological perspective. The reality is that sometimes we get really, really sick or we get old and our body no longer functions the way we need it to, and as a result, some of the things such as our heart or our brain stop working, and as a result, our body dies. It stops working. And that’s kind of the way I would begin that conversation. I would leave it then on the young person to ask some questions, to see what they want to know more about.

You say in the book that bedtime can be a good time for these conversations. Why?

Bedtime can be great depending on the age of your child. Often, there are rituals and time spent at bed reading books and tucking in and doing all that stuff, which is a great time to have conversations. As children get older and we move in to more of what I call the chauffeuring ages, car-time conversations are really good too, particularly because the kids don’t have to make eye contact.

Is there a euphemism for death that you loathe most?

One that’s probably most common is the idea that people “pass away.” I talk about this story of Sam in the book when he got really confused because he was in school and in school they talk about passing to the next grade, and the only person he knew who had passed was his mom. So that one I think particularly for children is a big one.

Kids usually seem capable of processing much more than we give them credit for.

Yes. For sure.

Helping a child or teenager who is grieving the death of a parent or loved one is always difficult. What do you tell them? How do you help them understand matters? The Canadian Virtual Hospice recently launched a website, KidsGrief.ca, to help answer those questions. It is especially important to talk to young kids about the four C’s, says Andrea Warnick, a Toronto-based registered psychotherapist and co-lead on the project.

“The four C’s are four common concerns that kids have when either somebody’s seriously ill, dying or has died in their life. We’re really trying to encourage families to address these even if kids aren’t bringing them up,” she says.

  • Cause: Am I some way responsible? “A lot of parents are really surprised when they find out that their child has been thinking that they did something to cause the illness or death in their family,” Warnick says. She has worked with children who thought their mom got throat cancer from yelling at them to clean their rooms. “We really want families to let their kids know that this is not their fault, they did not cause this in any way,” she says.
  • Catch: “A lot of families will avoid the word of the actual illness. So as opposed to saying, ‘Daddy has cancer,’ or ‘Dad has ALS,’ they’ll say, ‘Daddy’s sick.’ And for kids whose reference for sickness is that it gets spread across the daycare, or one person gets the flu and then the next person does, that scares them and they often think it’s going to happen to them to or they can catch it,” Warnick says. You can still hug your dad, still kiss him. You can still cuddle.
  • Cure: You have to let your kids know they can’t cure it. “This is not in their control,” Warnick says. “A lot of kids will use the power of their imaginations to come up with pacts, promising a higher power that they will never fight with their mom again if they cure them, and then of course they fight. I’ve had a number of kids feeling very responsible that they did something that could have happened otherwise.”
  • Care: This is one of kids’ biggest fears. “If there’s a parent or a primary caregiver who is ill or dying, who is going to take care of me?” Warnick says. Or if the person has already died, is this going to happen to my other parent or whoever it is who is now taking care of them? “A lot of kids are really worried about that. And that’s where we really walk families through how to talk about that. Some families are tempted to say no, it won’t happen to me. And we can’t promise a child that. So we really encourage families to say: Most likely I’m going to live to be very old, but if anything does happen to me, this is who is going to take care of you. Hopefully, guardians are picked out. Let them know what the plan is.”

Complete Article HERE!

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03/12/18

Helping Children Come to Terms With A Death In The Family

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We often try to shelter our children rather than help them address the loss of a parent, grandparent or family friend


One of the biggest mistakes people make is waiting too long to tell a child a loved one is dying.

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When a child is facing the death of a loved one, our first instinct is often to try to shelter them. Unfortunately, following that instinct may do more harm than good.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is waiting too long to tell a child a loved one is dying, says Andrea Warnick, a Guelph, Ont. grief counsellor with more than 20 years’ experience.

Warnick says she understands the reluctance. It is difficult to tell the children — except it is usually worse to say nothing, in part because kids will often use their imaginations to fill in the unknown details, which may be even worse than reality. And they will often blame themselves.

“It’s never too early,” Warnick insists. “You don’t need to wait for absolutes.”

You can simply say that the doctors are concerned that Mom could die, she says, by way of example. Kids need to feel that they can trust the adults in their lives to be honest with them, which is important for resilience.

“It’s better for them to find out from those who are closest to them,” she continues, adding “there’s less anxiety when they know what’s going on.”

And when children have only one parent left, it’s important they know what the plan is if the remaining parent dies.

Warnick cautions against waiting for children to bring the subject up. She says it’s the adults’ responsibility to open the conversation because children will try to protect parents by not bringing it up.

When talking to children, use clear language. “Don’t just say, Mom is sick. Call the illness or condition by its name. Avoid using euphemisms for death and dying. Don’t say we lost Grandpa or that Grandma is in your heart. “Kids can be very literal,” Warnick says.

With teenagers it can be easier to talk when they are in a car or when doing another activity such as going for a hike or doing a puzzle. “It doesn’t need to be a matter of ‘We are going to sit down and talk,’” she explains.

On the other hand, she advises against forcing children to talk. Let children take the lead on how much they want to know, she says. “Encourage them to ask questions and share concerns but let them know they are allowed to say ‘pass’ if they don’t feel like talking.”

Warnick isn’t surprised that many of us don’t know how to support someone, child or adult, who is grieving. She doesn’t mince words. “Ours is a death-denying and grief-illiterate society,” she says.

Her travels have taken her to other countries such as Botswana which have a rich story-telling culture and people freely share stories about their ancestors.

There is a misconception that you get over a death and move on, says Warnick. “We think we’re doing it wrong if it comes up again,” she says. “But this is natural… kids grieve in chunks. They will revisit it as they develop.” Children will also experience joy in between the sad times, and that’s okay too, she says.

Warnick adds that it’s okay for adults to cry in front of the children. This models a healthy grief response.

Another mistaken belief is that death ends a relationship, continues Warnick. “A child whose father has died still has a dad. Don’t try to sever the connection,” she says. Instead, children can be encouraged to participate in rituals or activities that memorialize the person who has died. For example, on the birthday of their loved one who has died, Warnick knows of one family who do “one act for the earth” in his memory because that was important to him.

Warnick attributes her own interest in helping those who are grieving to the death of her aunt when she was young. Warnick’s cousins were just children when their mother died. Once they were adults, they wanted to know more about their mom so they invited family and friends to share their memories on the 20th anniversary of her death. They were comforted by the outpouring that came from friends and family who were glad of the opportunity to remember her.

When an infant dies, people often struggle with how to best support the family. “The significance is often not recognized by society,” says Warnick, who points out that part of the grief is for the “unlived future.”

However, Warnick insists it is still possible to create meaningful rituals to express the grief, although it may require being creative. For instance, you can light a candle in memory of the child and talk about how you wish he or she was still here. “Families can nurture the relationship and hold space for the part that is not physical,” she says.

Grief is messy and involves many emotions including anger, fear, loss of confidence, shame, and guilt. It is non-linear and you don’t get over it in a few months or a year, emphasizes Warnick, who also cautions against praising children for “being strong” for holding in their emotions. This sends the wrong message to children who should feel free to express themselves.

If children cry, adults shouldn’t feel the need to fix it. “You can bear witness to their feelings by listening to them. The goal is not to fix the heartbreak. It’s to learn how to live with a broken heart.”

Strategies for supporting children who are grieving

When you want to talk to a child about a difficult subject, start by creating an appropriate space with minimal disturbances. Get on the same level as the child.

Begin by asking what the child understands. “I’m wondering what you understand about what happened…”

Ask if the child has overheard anything he/she didn’t understand. “I’m wondering if you’ve heard other people talking about any information that’s confusing to you?”

Words are powerful. Use correct terminology. Call the illness or condition by its name. Avoid euphemisms for death.

Don’t praise someone for “being strong.”

Don’t try to sever the connection with the person who died.

Encourage kids to ask questions or share worries.

Answer honestly using simple, concrete language.

Be honest when you don’t have the answer.

Explain that grief is a natural response and not a problem to be solved.

Let kids know it’s okay to feel happy and still enjoy life even when they are grieving.

Signs that more support is needed

Seek out a counsellor if there are signs of:

  • Self-harming behaviour
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Chronic physical symptoms
  • Panic attacks
  • Sleeping/eating disturbances
  • Risk-taking behaviour

Kid-friendly explanations

“Dead means that a body has stopped working and will never work again. The body cannot move, breathe, think, feel, see, smell, talk…The body does not feel pain or hunger or fear.”

“Suicide is when a person causes her or his body to stop working. The body dies.”

Warnick prefers to say that a person died from suicide rather than committed suicide.

“Cremation is when a dead body is put through very high heat causing it to break down into small pieces that look like sand/dirt.”

Grief is all the different feelings and thoughts that occur when something really difficult happens in life. It can include anger, guilt, shame, loneliness, resentment, sadness, fear, regret, etc.

Address the four Cs

Children will want to know:

Did I Cause it? Can I Catch it? Could I have Cured it? Who is going to take Care of me?

Complete Article HERE!

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03/8/18

Pilot program uses yoga to help grieving

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In an effort to help those whose lives have been touched by cancer, Excela Health Home Care and Hospice and Our Clubhouse Westmoreland are combining resources to offer a pilot program, “Yoga for the Grieving Heart.”

Our Clubhouse Westmoreland, a nonprofit, opened in 2015, offering cancer patients and survivors space to enjoy free arts and crafts classes, yoga classes, educational programs and join in a support group.

“This class will be for someone who’s lost a loved one to cancer,” says Christine Sumner, clubhouse program coordinator. The classes start March 8 at Clubhouse in Greensburg.

The seeds for the program were planted when Maureen Ceidro, bereavement counselor with Excela Health Home Care and Hospice, had a casual conversation with a member of a bereavement group.

“I was running a bereavement support group around the holidays, and one member mentioned a grief yoga group she had attended and how helpful it was,” Ceidro says.

“I researched it and thought, ‘Oh, my goodness, this just sounds phenomenal,’ ” she says.

Ceidro discovered that yoga can sometimes be used as a tool to address the sometimes physical manifestations of grief.

“We don’t always understand that the body tends to hold the burden of our scars,” she says.

She and her colleague, Kristy Walter, who lead several bereavement groups throughout the year for Excela Health Home Care and Hospice, reached out to Sumner, a certified yoga instructor, to help develop the upcoming program.

“This is something totally new for the Clubhouse. … A person in pain can detach, and become numb to the world around them. We invite all emotion, good, bad and ugly, to process in a nurturing place,” Sumner says.

Yoga poses and breath work will be taught to help better handle stress and sorrow.

Relieving pain, learning coping mechanisms

“Participants will learn healthy ways to release tension as they work through the stages of grief,” Sumner says.

She advises those who are interested to consult their physicians in advance to make sure it is safe for them to practice yoga.

Meditation, Reiki, dialogue and art therapy will offer supplemental support.

The six-week program will focus on gentle yoga, with chairs available for those needing support.

Ceidro and Walter will encourage participants to process and continue releasing their feelings during the art therapy portion, Ceidro adds.

After experiencing the mental, physical and emotional benefits of the grief yoga, art therapy will offer space for creative expression. Tasks for each session will directly relate to the teachings learned in the yoga class, pertaining to topics including the chakras, ways of grounding ourselves when grieving, and providing support to self and others.

“We are happy about the response so far. We (bereavement counselors) tend to always look for other ways of meeting people in their grief. … Group work is wonderful and can be positive. It’s not something everyone wants to get involved in,” Ceidro says.

“To piggyback off that, (this program) provides a creative outlet that allows people to be in their own grief process but provides tools to use outside of their time with us — yoga poses, art avenues — that they continue to work on, on their own,” Walter says.

Complete Article HERE!

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02/27/18

How to comfort dying and bereaved people? ‘Be there.’

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Often we struggle with finding the “right” words to comfort someone who is dying or who has lost a loved one but experts say all you really need to say is, “I’m sorry,” that being there for the individual already speaks volumes.

By Donna Vickroy

She seemed asleep in the quiet, softly lit room in the hospice section of Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

Her face was soft, relaxed, almost peaceful. Her breathing was steady. I didn’t know if she could hear me, but I struggled with what to say anyway.

The visit with my mother’s best friend, who lie dying, immediately took me back to the days before my mother’s death five years earlier, when the “right” words just wouldn’t seem to come, even though I had so many hours to formulate them.

Of all the phrases in the universe, the ones that we need in times of grief are often the most elusive.

What do you say to someone who is dying?

And what do you say afterward to those devastated by a loss?

How to navigate grief, whether it’s our own or that of someone close to us, seems a great mystery even to people whose college major was communication.

So this column will attempt to shed some light, to offer some advice and to serve as a virtual hug to those in need.

Because at some point in our lives all of us will be there, facing death, whether its our own or that of someone we love.

Joseph Masbaum has been bereavement coordinator for Advocate Hospice South for 13 years. He has comforted thousands of people as they were dying or through the grief process.

A person’s final moments, he said, are a good time to review. “Encourage them to feel good about their life.”

Regardless of how rich or exciting a person’s life may have been, Masbaum said, “When someone is dying, what’s most important to them is relationships. So talk about the people in their lives. Remind them that their family loves them. Just be reaffirming.”

It’s also important to not fear silence, he said.

While many people on their deathbed desperately want to be comforted by loved ones, some “don’t want to talk about it, some are bitter, some are in denial, some are avoiding it,” he said. Often, it can be hard to know what to say.

In those cases, he said, “I ask them what the doctor has told them about their situation. It gives you a start to know where they are.

“Ask them if they’re comfortable talking about themselves, about their life, their family,” he added.

“Some people avoid the dying because they’re afraid and don’t know what to say. So many of us are uncomfortable with silence — we fill it up with words,” he said. But when you know somebody is dying and are at a loss for words, he added, “Just be silent or say, ‘I don’t know what to say but I’m here because I care.'”

Steve Hoerger, pastor of Salem United Church of Christ in Oak Lawn, is a hospice chaplain. He said finding the right words can sometimes be tough “even for me who deals with terminal people daily.

“I think you let them take the lead and then be comfortable with wherever they go so they know they can open up,” he said.

“I rarely ask direct questions about how they’re handling the dying process. I ask questions about their life and then about their diagnosis and how it’s affecting them. This gives them the opportunity to say more about what they’re struggling with, or not. I’m comfortable with either,” Hoerger said.

Sometimes, he said, conversation can be shocking, but he remains nonjudgmental.

After the loss

Masbaum said, following the death of a loved one, it is common and normal to feel a multitude of emotions: shock, numbness, guilt, regret, sadness, anger.

It is most important, he added, to understand “there is nothing wrong with you” for feeling these emotions.

“So be careful to be very kind to yourself and avoid any negative self-talk,” he said.

Instead, “tell yourself, ‘I am doing the best I can. There’s nothing wrong with me, It’s the grief,'” he said.

Masbaum said when he calls to check on people following the death of a loved one, “They often tell me they feel lost, they feel empty, because their whole life has changed, especially if that person was one of their go-to people — someone they lived with, loved, saw everyday.”

Masbaum recalled a 12-year-old girl who was devastated by the loss of her grandfather because he was someone who really listened to her, someone who had been a key person in her life.

He recalled phoning one woman whose mother had died. “It was 1 in the afternoon or so. She said, ‘I’m in this chair all morning. Right now, I’m still in this chair. I just have no energy.’ So I normalized her feelings. I told her it’s normal to have fatigue and no energy,” he said.

“I only talked to her for about a minute but two hours later I was thinking of her and I called her back. This time, she was excited. She said, ‘I just came in from the yard. I was working in the garden for an hour.’ Prior to that, she was sitting in the chair, admonishing herself for being lazy. But when I told her that was the grief, and that it is normal, it really helped her,” he said.

Masbaum said he encourages people to talk about their loved ones, their feelings and about themselves.

“A lot of times we want people to be fixed — we think they should be getting over their sorrow — but (humans) need to process feelings,” he said. “Each person is unique in their grief and in how long it will take to adjust. Grief is a process that cannot be rushed. There is great wisdom in focusing and coping one day at a time as best you can.”

He also encourages those who are grieving to spend time with people who understand their grief, such as a support group or counselor or another person who also has experienced loss.

“Journaling your feelings is most helpful for many. Some bereaved who journal find it comforting to write a letter to their loved one each evening,” Masbaum said.

He also encourages people to talk with their deceased loved one.

“Some people may say ‘you’re crazy’ for doing that but for 13 years, of the thousands of people I’ve talked to, I’ve only met about four people who never talk to their deceased loved one,” he said. Just saying, “I love you, Mom, I miss you” can be cathartic, he said.

“There’s a gentleman I met in Oak lawn. He told me a story about missing his wife. In the end when he got up to go, I asked him if he ever talked to his wife. He stumbled and said, ‘Maybe a little, I just don’t know how I feel about that.’ I told him what I tell almost all the people I counsel, that it’s an individual thing but that it’s very common, very normal,” Masbaum recalled.

“The next week he came in, I asked how he was doing. He said, ‘I’m doing much better since you told me I can talk to my wife. I talk to her in the garden where we used to work together,'” he said.

Many people, Masbaum said, keep “transitional objects” such as jewelry or items that belonged to a loved one. Many wear a piece of their loved one’s clothing, such as their sweatshirt or jacket, to help them feel a connection.

Also, he said, maintaining a daily routine with some movement or exercise is especially important for those who are grieving, even if it is just a daily walk around the block.

The rituals of death

Peggy Schaffer and Brian Fitzpatrick, funeral directors at Brady-Gill Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Tinley Park, have had funeral attendees reveal that they don’t know what to say at a visitation or interment, particularly if the deceased was taken tragically or is a child.

“The best thing to say is, ‘I’m sorry’,” Schaffer said. “Don’t say, ‘It’s good you have other children’ or ‘You’re young enough to have more.'”

If words escape you, she said, remember actions often speak louder.

“It means more to someone (who is grieving) that you walked in, acknowledging that their mother, father, brother, sister, child lived and touched their lives. You don’t have to say anything,” Schaffer said. “The fact that you took time out of your day to be there says it all.”

Sometimes, she added, a meal a week or so after the funeral reminds the loved one that they haven’t been forgotten.

“Pick up the phone and share a memory,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a long conversation.”

When it comes to attending wakes and funerals, Fitzpatrick said, there are no “rules” about how long to stay or what to bring.

People still send flowers, Schaffer added, but over the last 25 years, services have become shorter, more streamlined, often with both visitation and funeral service on the same day, and the “gift” of Catholic Mass cards, signifying a future Mass will be said on behalf of the deceased, has dropped off considerably.

“We’re seeing a lot more cremation, with a memorial that includes the urn and lots of pictures,” she said. “More people see the urn as not as traumatic as the (deceased’s) body.”

Picture boards and videos can be conversation starters for those who struggle with what to say, she said.

Schaffer suggested letting a sympathy card or a message left on the deceased’s page on the funeral home’s website do the talking if you cannot.

“Don’t fumble over words,” she said. “If you can’t think of what to say, a hug or a touch will do.”

Finding my words

Standing at the bedside of my mother’s best friend, I decided to say what I would want to hear if the tables were turned.

I told her that we loved her. I thanked her for being a good person in our lives, for being helpful and kind and funny and constant. I thanked her for all of the rides she’d given me to work and school when I was a kid. I thanked her for letting my siblings and me have sleepovers at her house and for coming to my college graduation and for all the times she made us laugh and all the times she brought the best kolachkes in the world to my family parties.

I thanked her for believing in my dreams as a child and for being the biggest fan of my column when I became an adult, even if she did joke that it was only “to keep her nose in all of my business.”

I hugged her, kissed her forehead, rubbed her arm, held her hand and then I thanked her for being a good friend to my mother because that made her a good friend to us.

Although she moved her mouth and raised her eyebrows several times, I’m not sure if she heard or understood. Because I will never know that she didn’t, I am choosing to believe that she did.

Complete Article HERE!

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02/18/18

‘This Is Us’ shows Americans it’s OK to grieve

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Americans often seek to move on and leave the deaths of loved ones behind — failing to resolve their feelings in the process — which is why “This Is Us” is such useful TV.

By Jennifer Wright

I love “This Is Us.”

Not because I think it’s corny, or over the top. I don’t watch it ironically. I love it with a complete and total earnestness. That is what it deserves.

Because NBC’s “This Is Us” is one of the only shows on television that honestly explores the ongoing nature of grief.

Each episode deals with a cast of characters who are still mourning the loss of their father, Jack Pearson, who died 20 years ago. The episode after the Super Bowl finally revealed Jack’s cause of death. Spoiler: It was that he ran back inside his family’s burning house to save his daughter’s dog and suffered a heart attack from smoke inhalation. A stunning 27 million viewers tuned in.

The show’s creator Dan Fogelman tweeted that, “My mom died 10 years ago, unexpectedly. It’s the hinge upon which my life swings. Jack’s death is the Pearson hinge. We look back. We move forward. That’s our collective journey.”

That attitude is quietly revolutionary in a country that doesn’t like to dwell on death, let alone the sadness it provokes. America exists in stark contrast to other cultures like Mexico, where the Day of the Dead is celebrated, or China, whose Qingming Festival is intended to remember ancestors who’ve passed away. In America, we’re expected to move tidily through the stages of grief and then not talk about our loss too much anymore.

Ongoing grief doesn’t fit with American ideals about being strong and resilient.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. According to Psychology Today, many people are incapacitated by grief. It notes, “approximately 10 to 20 percent of bereaved persons have severe enough, unremitting reactions to loss that result in a complicated grieving process that may require treatment.” When you consider that “8 million people suffered through the death of someone in their immediate family last year,” according to the National Mental Health association, that makes for a lot of powerfully bereaved people out there.

Teens — as the children in “This is Us” were at the time of their dad’s death — can be struck especially hard. An essay in Social Psychiatry on “Suicide following bereavement of parents” found that there is five times greater risk of suicide in teens following the loss of a parent.

For the most part, the Pearsons on “This is Us”s seem to have resumed their lives. But anyone who has lost a loved one can tell you that you don’t just grieve for a limited amount of time and then go back to “normal.” The normal that existed prior to that loss is gone. You can grieve on the days you expect (like Jack’s wife, played by Mandy Moore, who makes his favorite dinner each year on the anniversary of his death), but you can also be hit unexpectedly by it (as happens to Jack’s now-adult daughter Kate when she considers adopting a dog).

In a culture where death is often a taboo topic, “This Is Us” is a show that can get people talking about it.

You can see people on Twitter responding to the episode about Jack’s death by saying, as @littlestgrey did:

“Jack’s conversation w Rebecca about not being in the ground was almost word for word the conversation my Grandma had with me. Have I mentioned how cathartic this show is?”

Or, like @Kab_Fair, who tweeted:

“my mom died when I was young and I carry her with me every day, I think that is the message of This Is Us, she’s never gone, just physically unknown to those who occupy my life today.”

“This Is Us” does something incredibly valuable in showing us that it is OK to be sad. The characters in the show are able to grieve, but they’re also able to partake in life’s many joys.

It’s nice to see that, now that Jack’s death has been revealed, the show will go on to explore how the death of Jack’s brother in Vietnam affected him. And it will probably end up making us cry all over again.

On the show and his own grief Fogelman tweeted, “Sad? Yes. But when you look through a wide enough lens — it’s also outrageously beautiful.”
To grieve is to have known love.

The characters are dealing with a deep sadness that almost all of us will eventually experience. That’s true whether or not we want it to happen, and whether or not we want to talk about it. To experience loss is, as the show’s creator says, our collective journey.

Complete Article HERE!

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02/13/18

Grieving the death of a spouse/partner

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The death of a spouse or partner can be one of the most devastating events in a person’s life bringing with it it’s own particular difficulties. As a result of this death you may have lost your life’s partner, lover, confidante, father or mother of your children, breadwinner, home-maker and possibly your best friend. You may be forced to make more changes than from any other event you will ever experience.

Even if you maintained a great deal of personal independence within your relationship you can be surprised and frightened to discover just how ‘dependent’ you have been on your partner. Over the years you may have related closely to one another’s fears and joys so that when one dies you feel incomplete. Your life has lost its structure and its purpose. You may be left with many unfulfilled needs – emotional, physical, practical, intellectual and social. It is hard to imagine all the areas of life your spouse once filled until you experience the gaps.

Grieving, in itself, is emotionally and physically exhausting. When you have the additional burden of taking on the roles that were previously performed by your partner, going on living may appear to be just too much. New tasks should be embarked on slowly with as much help as is available. Major decisions should not be taken when vision is clouded by anxiety and panic.

Friends may avoid social contact with you because of embarrassment. You are now a single person. Some may see you as a threat to their relationships. You may feel isolated, no longer part of a group, not invited out, or you may exclude yourself as you feel uncomfortable without your partner. Many surviving partners experience the unwanted sexual advances from those whom they counted among their or their partner’s friends.

The feeling of loneliness can be overwhelming and will probably come to you at your most vulnerable times – at night, weekends and holidays. Plan for this – at night keep the radio on, change your routine. Plan a project or outing for a weekend or holiday. Make contact with another lonely person.

Financial difficulties may arise – especially if your spouse or partner died without making a will. You may not be aware of your financial state and even if matters are in order there is often a delay in getting things sorted out. If there is a reduction in income the effect on your standard of living may cause family problems especially when children’s expectations also have to be adjusted. This can add to feelings of fear, anxiety and anger. Your local Citizens Information Centre may be of help with practical matters.

Sexual loss. The loss of love making which included touch, warmth and sharing a bed with your partner can be very painful. It can be tempting to succumb to sexual advances from another. However, such action based on acute need and deep grief is potentially hazardous. Until you have let go of the past, it is better not to make a commitment to someone new.

If your partner dies in the early years of the marriage / relationship not only do you grieve the loss of a beloved person but also the loss of a new, exciting romantic relationship with the prospect of years of mutual love and companionship. You may also grieve the hope of parenting a child or more children together. You may feel that you are the only one of your generation who has been cheated out of hopes for the future. Young widows and widowers may also be expected to comfort the parents of the dead partner.

If the death occurs in your mid-life years you may have the additional stress of feeling trapped by the total responsibility for all the many needs of teenage children which can also prevent you from expressing your own grief. The agency ‘Parentline’ can be helpful in assisting with parenting problems. At this time you may also feel a loss of identity especially if you have no interests or work outside the home.

For the elderly bereaved – the loss of a life’s partner can cause increased trauma, create health problems and may affect your will to live. Sometimes, with the best of intentions, adult children may smother the surviving parent with care and attention. They do not allow you space to grieve or to make your own decisions. If your family are far away you can feel all alone and may even feel abandoned.

For those in same sex relationships there may be added difficulties. The relationship may have been ignored or denied by the family of one or both partners. This can create added stress for you in the grieving process. As the surviving partner, you may find yourself excluded from decision-making concerning the funeral and burial. You may even be precluded from attending.

Perhaps work colleagues and the wider community may just think that a ‘friend’ has died, but you have lost your life partner and companion and you have to keep your grief hidden. This intensifies all aspects of the grieving process, leading to strong feelings of loneliness, isolation, anger and, at times, frustration. If the death has been from Aids, this can lead to further social isolation. It is important that you can find someone to whom you can unburden your feelings.

Whatever your age when you are bereaved, your feeling and reactions will be influenced by the nature and duration of the relationship. If the relationship had been ambivalent, feelings of relief, regret and guilt can be confusing. It is important, when dealing with these feelings, to be totally honest with yourself. Put words on your feelings, voice them aloud or write them down. It is always helpful to talk about your feelings with someone who will listen in a caring and confidential way. This will help you to discover what you are feeling, why you are feeling like this and what you can do about it. Joining a support group for bereaved people may be helpful.

The Bereavement Counselling Service is there to listen and provide support as you struggle with your grief. In our modern world just surviving can be hard work. It is doubly hard to pull yourself out of an emotional trough but it is not impossible. Each time you cope with a crisis and make a major decision you will feel good about yourself. When you reach a goal you will gain satisfaction and self-assurance through your own competence. With time and effort you will recover to lead a full and rewarding life once again.

Complete Article HERE!

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02/11/18

Grieving My Boyfriend’s Death… with His Ex-Boyfriend

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Being gay can feel isolating. So can loss. Conquer both, together.

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It’s never easy meeting your boyfriend’s exes, but it’s even harder when it’s at your partner’s funeral. So it was that I first met Donal, the love of Simon’s life. Handsome and charming, eloquent in his grief, I hated him before I even gave myself the chance to know him. While we got on fine at the wake, I had every intention of that being the only time we ever spoke.

This was made a lot harder by my decision to run the London marathon in our Simon’s name. As soon as the torrent of sweaty finish line selfies hit Facebook, Donal knew exactly why I had just run 26.2 miles, even though I’d done everything in my power not to bring his attention to what I was doing. It was about my pain, not anyone else’s.

“I wish we could have been better friends,” Donal messaged me.

“Well, we’re not the ones who are dead yet mate,” I wrote back. “So let’s Skype?”

We agreed to talk a few days later. Donal was immediately the most charming man I’d ever met. He was pleasant, complimentary, truthful, funny, and open about the fact he had felt just as alienated at Simon’s funeral as I had.

“What do you miss most about him?” he asked.

“His eyes,” I said. Donal nodded and smiled.

“I miss that ass, frankly.”

He paused, and then told me that I was the only other person who truly understood how he felt about Simon. I felt the same way: to speak to the only other person who had slept next to Simon was, perhaps, the most liberating thing in the world. Like the first time you make a Sean Cody joke with a new gay friend and realize that, for once, you’re speaking to someone who gets your shorthand.

We were both incredibly similar people—and both equally unaware of the chemsex and meth epidemic in London before meeting Simon—and both of us were trying to respond to his loss proactively. I wrote a play, he was making a film. He was helping support people he met who were in recovery, and I’d just run across half of London for Stonewall.

As we sat there, talking about our experiences with the same man, he started to cry as he told me that he wished he’d fought more for Simon to move out with him and get help in California, where the community was a lot better than it was in London.

This was not the first time Donal had told me this. At the wake, I had seen this as the most selfish opinion in the world: Didn’t I have a right to have met Simon too? This time round, less salty than I was when recently bereaved, I told him to stop being a fucking hero. Neither of us could have saved him, and we’d be arrogant to think otherwise. He smiled and told me he understood exactly why Simon fell for me.

We pledged to speak more, and we do. When Donal was back in England recently, we even popped into the bar where Simon and me—and Donal and me—had first met. Donal introduced me to the manager behind the counter, a man who I had bought pints from many times, knowing that we both had the same loss in our hearts, but had never spoken to.

“You won’t believe it,” said Donal, “but David here ran the marathon for Simon.”

The manager turned to look at me. He shook my hand. All three of us were choked up.

“Well then you’re not paying for those drinks,” he said.

Fran Leibowitz said in “The Impact of AIDS on the Artistic Community” that the crisis killed off the greatest audience for art New York had ever seen. For me, it also seems to have decimated a generation of mentors. Not just because of the body count, of course, but because of ageism in the gay community, a lack of social spaces that aren’t for clubbing, and because I’m sure we, as a generation younger, can seem uncomfortably ignorant of the defining moments of the gay liberation movement in the 20th century. Before Donal I had met nobody who could say certainly that what I was experiencing was not entirely new, and could confidently tell me when what I was feeling was important or when I was being a fucking idiot.

And this is as true for bereavement as it is for homosexuality. Both can feel incredibly isolating: many experience it, but it’s almost like everyone is speaking a different language when they try and share their stories. What Donal and I give each other as Simon’s partners is also what I was desperately in need of as a gay man: A confidante. Much-needed perspective. And an understanding that we are all part of something tough and beautiful together. And, I hope, I will give somebody else that when I’m older.

Complete Article HERE!

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