Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Caregiving, bereavement and grief during the holiday season

The 5 questions

While the Globe and Mail published an article:
Why are we afraid of talking about death? 
I believe that people are changing. The comments on this post tell the real story. National Advance Care Planning Day is one of the signs.

End-of-life care has become to be more accepted as North Americans have begun to understand that dying is a part of life, and life is a part of death. Much can be done to ease the transition from life to death.

Many of us want to die in our own homes, which can be facilitated by a health care team providing resources and support. There are many human resources and technology tools to assist you: home visits by palliative care teams, oxygen to ease breathing, hospital beds, devices such as walkers or commodes, special foods, appropriate nourishment, mouth care techniques. These are all designed to keep a care recipient and his/her family comfortable and more relaxed.

Not all are suited to being cared for in the home. This is another choice a spouse or adult child must make. And no one can make you feel guilty for doing so. Your family member's safety is at risk.

Once a family member passes over, the work of grieving begins.
Volunteer Hospice Visiting Services run regular groups for the bereaved. Check them out in your town or city. There is strength in sharing your grief.

Coping With the Holidays 
You have choices. For those who are bereaved, changing a holiday tradition may be a good way to manage. For some the added stress at this time of year may cause too much pressure. For others, keeping up with the decorations, the holiday cards, music, food, and traditions, gives a framework and a foundation to the season.

Give yourself permission to do only what you feel most comfortable with, and doing only the things you have the energy to do. Give yourself permission to change it up. 

Thinking of others may give you some joy. Finding a place to volunteer can help. Many who are grieving, or far from extended family, take in others who may be similarly alone and grieving. They call them ‘Orphan Turkey Dinners’, and invite anyone else who might be alone. Everyone brings a contribution to the meal as you break bread together. 

Understand that grief and bereavement is a normal cycle of life. Give yourself permission to cry. Tears heal. On the other hand avoid situations where your grief may not be bearable at this time. We all grieve differently, at a different pace, in different ways. If you need to avoid the stores, with their Christmas music, do so. If you need to take a vacation, give yourself permission to leave town. Bring your grief out when you are able to manage.  

High school mentors at a
 Bracebridge bereavement groupfor children 8 - 12.
Elke Scholz was the art therapist,
I was a volunteer!
If you choose to carry on with a family celebration, honour your loved one by sharing favourite memories. At a family gathering, place a box or a basket near the door. As people arrive, ask them to write a memory of your loved one on a piece of paper and leave it there. Find a moment to truly realize what it is that your loved one gave to the world.
Hold these memories in your heart, and they will remain alive. 

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