By: Sheila Kun RN, BA, BSN, MS
Can you recall the Divine Secret in coping with grief from Julie-Allyson Ieron’s book on “The Overwhelmed Woman’s Guide… Caring for Aging Parents”? The Divine Secret 1 is to embrace grief and that Christians can experience the range of emotions – with the exception of hopelessness.
This week, let us look at the second secret:
The Divine Secret 2: allow for a season of the blues. Embracing grief without losing hope leads to the second “divine secret,” letting our seniors’ grief be expressed and run its course. A season of sadness is healthy – much more so than stuffing emotions and pretending everything is A-OK. We watch our seniors go through a season of sadness, resulting from a string of losses that tore away the support system and social network. Part of the elder’s distress may have been an expression of survivor guilt, asking God why they were not taken away to heaven. Per Julie, this is normal. It is better for us to allow the seniors to vent and help them move through the emotions of their topsy-turvy, changing worlds. Weeping with those who weep is a biblical concept (Romans 12:15) and a great lesson in helping grieving seniors to deal with their losses.
In my profession as a nurse, I remembered I was very eager to console parents when their child got a serious chronic diagnosis by saying: “I know how you feel.” But in fact, we really do not know how it feels to receive bad news like this. I worked with children who were in respiratory failure and require mechanical ventilator support. Our hospital is one of the centers of excellence for this specialty, and hence we have cared for a large number of such children. The fact that we see so many such children, we might forget how the parents feel with the diagnosis of chronic respiratory failure. One parent reflected the time of the diagnosis to me this way: “It feels like the floor under you has fallen.” We took for granted that with our knowledge and robust support, that these parents could take on the home care easily. One major step that we had to remind ourselves time after time before our formal training was to allow time to grieve.
Can you image you are the mom of an NICU baby and you are now told by the doctor that your baby needs to use the ventilator to do the most basic thing in life? We have to remind ourselves and treat every case that it is catastrophic for the parents and that this is a life-changing experience for them. Until they work through the grief of not having a normal baby and accept the cruel reality that the baby needs help to breathe, no training or preparation can begin. Now that I read about the Divine Secret 2: allow for a season of the blues, my reflection on how to support the NICU parents by allowing them to mourn and grieve remains the most essential first step in our Home Mechanical Ventilation Program. When the parents are not emotionally ready, you will witness behaviors that we label as non-compliant – not showing up for training or parent conference. But in fact, they need time to digest all the bad news and come to grips with reality as to how to do next. Listening to how painful it is for them to have a chronically ill child is a pre-requisite to many other interventions such as training and education for home procedures. I echo Julie’s recommendation in the Divine Secret 2: allow for a season of the blues.
Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: practice listening.
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