When I reflect on the stories of death supported by hospice care and contrast it with our story depicting an absence of support, I find myself dealing with envy and anger. Lisa J. Shultz, author of A Chance to Say Goodbye: Reflection on Losing a Parent
November is National Hospice/Palliative Care Month. A daughter I interviewed for my book was so positively impacted by the hospice care her young mother received that, as an adult, she became a lifelong hospice volunteer and the National Hospice Volunteer of the Year. Hospice and palliative care frequently make a profound, positive difference in the lives of families and patients.
What’s the difference? Hospice care is for terminally ill patients when treatment is no longer curative during the last six months of life. Palliative care can be employed while the patient is continuing active treatment through different phases of their life-limiting condition. Both provide comfort.
Affirmation: I’m grateful for the volunteers and professionals who provide hospice and palliative care.
Coaching request: If you are a patient or family member dealing with a life-threatening condition, consider hospice or palliative care now or in the future. It can make a world of difference.
Every human being must find his own way to cope with severe loss, and the only job of a true friend is to facilitate whatever method he chooses. Caleb Carr, American military historian and author
Yesterday, at John McCain’s memorial service in Arizona, former Vice President Joe Biden, who has known considerable personal loss, comforted the McCain family and friends by saying, “When a memory comes to mind and a smile crosses your face before a tear comes to your eye, you know you are healing.”
Biden was assuring the gathered mourners that there is hope for recovery from their heart-breaking loss. His words comfort us all. Sometimes memories bring smiles AND tears. All our feelings are appropriate, of course, and we are fortunate if we have friends who honor our process.
Affirmation: I smile when I remember.
Coaching questions: Do memories of your mom bring smiles or tears? How do you measure your recovery progress? Acknowledge the friends who are/have supported you.
Who we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us. Helen Keller, American author, political activist, first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree
Helen Keller has the right idea when it comes to words of sympathy. Offering supporting words to friends who are in emotional pain due to the critical illness or death of a loved one can be fraught with peril. Saying things like, “she’s in a better place” or “everything happens for a reason” or “I know just how you feel,” can be hurtful to many. Telling your own Super Griever story is not helpful either. Sharing a memory of the loved one, showing concern for the caregiver/grieving person herself, or saying nothing at all but being present is good too.
Don’t let “not knowing what to say” keep you from being a comforting person in your friend’s life. Send a card or a text, show up with tacos, offer to take the dog for a walk or their kids to a movie. Don’t be afraid to say, “I just don’t know what to say.” Trust me, she’ll get your message.
Affirmation: I care about my friends.
Coaching questions: When you have experienced a loss, what was helpful and comforting to you? Give some thought right now about how you might respond to a grieving or completely overwhelmed friend. Your words and actions will be ready when you need them in the moment.