Harsh Your Mellow

I’ll admit to being far removed from pop culture and the “scene” of 20-somethings, which won’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me well.  I’m not sure I was part of the 20-something scene when I WAS 20-something myself.  This week in the nursing home, I heard a 20-something nurse aide say the phrase “Harsh Your Mellow” and I admit I was intrigued by it!  I’ve found that there are a couple of different definitions of this phrase, but the one I latched onto was that you ruin someone’s happiness with sad news or drama.

In life, there will always be sad news and for many people, drama. I try to avoid drama at all costs.  That may be my 50-something maturity, but I find that drama is usually overrated and typically unnecessary.  I have noticed in my end-of-life work (hospice and long-term care) that there is often drama that could have been avoided or just lessened – if only people would have talked when they were healthy and able to do so.

Sadness is unavoidable in this life; drama, though, can sometimes be kept at bay.  I’ve watched families wrestle with making decisions for a loved one who can no longer speak for themselves.  I’ve seen adult siblings separated by hundreds of miles and a childhood of drama come together around a bedside to try to make decisions for a parent who was indifferent all their lives.  Sometimes adult children gather to try to make amends as a last-chance effort to find togetherness.  Others appear from a far distance (in time, miles and emotions) to make sure they get “their share” of whatever Mom or Dad may have left in worldly goods.

I’ve sat with patients as they received sad (bad) news from their oncologist.  I’ve listened to long-married spouses ask us to help their partner “get stronger” even though their last station is on the near horizon.  I’ve witnessed the caring of my Uncle Warren who visited his wife every day in the nursing home where she resided for 7 years even though she could no longer speak or acknowledge his presence.  These situations could have been full of negative drama; they were certainly full of sadness.

When I speak with people facing their own illness or death or that of someone they love, I tend to be forthright in providing education and information.  I can sometimes be blunt but I am always compassionate.  Because of the reality of the subject, I may even “harsh your mellow.”

Caring Choices recognizes that by avoiding discussions about the harshness that chronic illness, terminal diagnosis or advanced aging brings, we may escape the sadness, but the drama may increase – both for us and for our families.  We may need to be more willing to “harsh the mellow” when we’re healthy and able to rationally discuss healthcare options.  Better to harsh our own mellow than the mellow of those we love.

© 2015 Caring Choices