People frequently say: “I don’t want to be a burden to my family.” And yet without conversations, planning and guidance, that’s exactly what we may become to them.
A loved one’s involvement through the end of life experience, especially having decision-making responsibilities, can greatly impact how they cope through their grief and bereavement.
- If they feel guilt and remorse over making decisions, they’re likely to feel guilt, maybe resentment, through their bereavement.
- If they have the benefit of knowing our values, beliefs and decisions, the emotional burden of decision-making is decreased and bereavement is likely to be less fraught with negative emotions.
Below is our illustration of the general concept of how we experience grief with the actual “closer to the truth” experience of grief. Some assume that the deepest grief is felt immediately at the loss (as indicated by the darker shade of the line). As time passes, and we move away from the moment of loss, the shade of the line grows lighter – so does, supposedly, the depth of our grieving feelings. In reality, grief and bereavement have a less-defined trajectory as illustrated in the second “line”. Grief is different for each individual, as it is for each situation, whether it be death, divorce, loss of job, loss of independence, etc. One size does not fit all.
There is a method of coping with grief that may seem absurd. Yet, it can be helpful when you’re ready to consider it. The notion is that of gratitude and creating a Gratitude List. Not, of course, that you’re grateful for the loss (death, divorce, loss of job, loss of independence, etc.) BUT that you are able to see how the loss transformed your life in a positive way. I’ve written before about the year I turned 30: One month after my 30th birthday, my Dad died unexpectedly. Four months later, I was filing for divorce and leaving my home with my then 8-year-old son to move back in with my Mom. At that time, I could only focus on the enormity of the losses.
Shortly after Mom died (five years later), I realized that had those things not aligned as they did, I (and my son) would likely not have had those years with Mom so closely in our lives. And there began my Gratitude List of experiences after deep losses:
- We were able to support each other through the loss of Dad.
- I was able to be Mom’s primary caregiver through her final years of life.
- I learned a lot about family caregiving that influences my life and work today.
- We learned first-hand the benefits of Hospice care.
- My son had the benefit of living with his Grammie for five years.
- We had the benefit of being prepared for Mom’s death because we had time together to talk.
I’ve added to my Gratitude List with other losses over the past 22 years (that’s how long my Dad is gone). Some might say this is simply finding the silver lining in each cloud but I believe it’s more than that. It’s not just positive thinking or reflection. It’s about recognizing and accepting positive changes in your life when really awful things have happened. There is a research group at UNC Charlotte who works on this topic, which they termed “post-traumatic growth”. When you’re ready, check them out.
Caring Choices understands that loss is inevitable for most of us. Falling into the depths of despair because of loss can be lessened. We have the power to prepare people we love for loss which can allow them to eventually make their own Gratitude List. It starts with communication. We can help.
© 2015 Caring Choices