By: Sheila Kun RN, BA, BSN, MS
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. The wisdom of Julie-Allyson Ieron’s book on “The Overwhelmed Woman’s Guide… Caring for Aging Parents” gives us another wonderful suggestion in her Divine Secret.
Divine Secret 3: Not Everyone Responds the Same Way
While there are many similar responses and stages of grief, not everyone experiences every textbook stage; and even when people do experience the stages in typical progression, they move through each stage at different speeds – and need different levels of support. So we will let this be “divine secret” number three.
I remember sharing my loss when mom passed away with my colleague; our family agreed that mom would not want to be on ventilator support after her stroke. Therefore, we decided on removal of mechanical support and let nature take its course. There was no argument or remorse because all the siblings had the same approach in life, respecting mom’s wish to be as independent as possible. Given a very similar circumstance, one cousin had another experience. When his mom had a stroke and needed ventilator support, his younger brother could not let go. Subsequently, their mom was on ventilator support and in a vegetative state for over a year. That was an awful time for this family. They struggled to be present with their mom while needing to take care of their own families. Whether this is a right decision is not up to us to judge. Each family has to make the decision that feels right for them. Hence, remembering that not everyone responds the same way is an important point to remember.
My colleague and I also shared the same approach to deal with our emotion of losing a parent. I personally felt that we did the best under the circumstances. We put our energy to focus on dad and his subsequent adjustment of losing his wife of 40 years. My colleague told me her sister, on the other hand, liked to express grief openly and freely when her dad passed away after being ill for 2 years. Her sister felt the need to join a support group. This was scorned by her siblings. Looking back, and now, understanding that not everyone responds the same way to grief, her decision to join a group should be welcomed. Unfortunately, at that time, the sister was seen as a weak person. Sometimes our culture dictates how we grieve. However, it is important to remember it is OKAY to accept the individual’s response to difficult situations.
Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: Understand that there is no one right way to grieve.
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