Grief & Bereavement
I remember reading once that the Ancient Celtic prescription for physical and emotional healing was “laughter, sorrow, and rest.” (If you know where I heard this, please let me know and I’ll give proper attribution!)
This weekend I was reminded of this great advice when I had an opportunity to hear the Celtic band, “Cherish the Ladies,” at a small performing arts center near my home.
Joanie Madden’s Irish wit made me laugh all through the performance.
The ballads and the Irish whistle sounded so wistful, it touched a deep sadness in me and brought tears to my eyes.
The music and dancing, traditional as well as original, was the best I’ve heard or seen in a concert, and completely took me away from my daily cares.
Laughter. Sorrow. Rest. It makes sense to me.
We know that laughter is great medicine anytime; numerous studies show that laughter decreases stress, improves social bonds, and boosts our immune systems.
We rest if we’ve been ill, and when we’re going through a severe emotional trauma, we lose our energy and often take to our beds. (One way to view depression is as a natural mechanism to keep the body at rest so it can heal from injury).
What might not seem so intuitive is the Celtic advice about Sorrow. Aren’t we told to look on the bright side? Use positive affirmations? Get over it already???
Actually, denying our sorrow or holding in our feelings of sadness will only cause them to become “stuck” in our mind and body, and can lead to symptoms such as headaches, gastric upset, and muscle aches and pains.
As we learn more about mind-body medicine and take a gentle, holistic approach to self-care, we can see that making space to express Sorrow is an important component of any healing regimen.
In the coming weeks we’ll be looking at some different techniques that support the expression of Sorrow and other emotions we often think of as “negative,” so we can make room for all that is good and find the balance and wellness that we seek.
In the meantime, I would love to hear your comments about this bit of Celtic Wisdom.
And be sure to Laugh when you can. Cry when you need to. Have a l-o-n-g nap.
And put on some great Celtic Music!
Lisa Kendall is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a special interest in supporting self-care. In addition to her practice in Ithaca, NY, Lisa is a sought-after speaker, retreat leader, and an “Eden at Home” Educator committed to changing the culture of care for Elders and their care partners.
Please join me on December 12th in remembering our children who have died, and the bereaved parents they leave behind. The following press release from The Compassionate Friends explains the annual Worldwide Candle-Lighting, and how you can join us on Sunday evening, 12/12/10 at 7 p.m., your time zone. Thank you for remembering, Lisa Kendall.
——————————————————————————– Hundreds of Services Planned
Oak Brook IL—(December 2, 2009) Tens of thousands of families around the world, grieving the loss of a child, will join together Sunday, December 13 for The Compassionate Friends thirteenth annual Worldwide Candle Lighting.
“The holiday season is especially difficult for bereaved families,” says Compassionate Friends executive director Patricia Loder. “The second Sunday in December has become the one day during the holiday season when families can unite in remembrance of all children gone too soon.
“So often our loss is minimized by others who believe the holiday season is a time to forget the realities of life,” says Mrs. Loder. “When your child has died, it’s hard to be in a festive mood.”
More than 500 services open to the public will be held in the United States including all 50 states, plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico. Last year The Compassionate Friends received information on services held in approximately 20 countries outside the United States.
The Worldwide Candle Lighting is sponsored by The Compassionate Friends, the world’s largest self-help bereavement organization for families grieving the death of a child. The organization has more than 625 chapters blanketing the United States.
The Worldwide Candle Lighting was started by a small group of Internet visionaries who recognized that a day should exist to honor the memories of all children who have died. The observance has grown every year and is now believed to be the world’s largest mass candle lighting.
The candle lighting is officially held for an hour at 7 p.m. local time around the world, creating a virtual wave of light. Tens of thousands, unable to attend services held throughout the day, will light candles for that hour wherever they may be, whether alone or with friends and family.
Persons interested in participating in the Worldwide Candle Lighting, but who may not be able to attend an organized event have two additional alternatives. They can join in the Online Support Community (chats) on The Compassionate Friends national website. They also can join in a virtual candle lighting being held at 7 p.m. PST in Second Life, an online virtual community with more than 6 million members.
As in the past, chapters of many allied organizations are expected to participate in this year’s event including MADD, MISS, SHARE, Parents of Murdered Children, and BPUSA. U.S. services are also being sponsored by local bereavement groups, churches, hospices, hospitals, funeral homes, schools, and many individuals.
In addition, bereaved family members, relatives, and friends are invited to post a memorial message December 13 in a Remembrance Book on TCF’s national website. Last year several thousand messages, some in foreign languages, were received during the Worldwide Candle Lighting day from throughout the United States and dozens of countries abroad.
For more information including the location of services both in the U.S. and around the world, visit http://compassionatefriends.org or call 877-969-0010.
Lisa is a clinical social worker in private practice in Ithaca, NY. She is a mother of two incredible daughters, Diane and Christine, and will be joining with her family and other bereaved parents around the world to remember Diane, and other children who have died, on December 12th.
Is it OK to love your clients?
I say yes.
Before you report me to the State Ethics committee, I’m not talking about romantic entanglements or inappropriate sexual contact or even the violation of healthy boundaries.
But in the health care field we’ve always been told “don’t get too attached” to the clients that we care for. But doesn’t this go against human nature?
Most of the nurses, social workers, home health aides, and other allied health professionals I know have gone into this work because they care about people and want to help them. When you provide intimate, day to day care for human beings, the kind that eases suffering and reduces loneliness, and you hear someone’s personal stories, share lots of laughter and a few tears, you naturally come to love them.
And they love you, too.
Dr. Bill Thomas, founder of The Eden Alternative, has written about this in his book, “What Are Old People For: How Elders Will Save the World.”
He proposes that instead of denying the love that health care workers have for their clients, organizations acknowledge and support it.
To do so would ensure that such attachments are healthy and appropriate, and provide support for a worker’s grief when a beloved client dies.
Today, the love and affection workers feel is often forced underground, leading to stress and isolation for the worker, and could ultimately contribute to burn-out and turn-over.
Can you imagine how relieved our health care workforce might be to have permission to love, and have support and supervision to do so every day, on the job, in the open?
How much might this improve care for the ill and our Elders?
Lisa Kendall is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with advanced certification in clinical gerontology who works in home care, has a private practice in Ithaca, NY, and is an “Eden at Home” Educator. You can get more information on The Eden Alternative and Eden at Home at www.edenalt.org
Contact me if your organization would like to host an “Eden at Home” Certified Trainer Workshop!
Announcing a Webinar from the
Celebrating the Sacredness of Life and Death
Panelists: Cheryl Fitzgerald, C-GNP, C-ANP; Sharon Wolff, MSW; and Richard Gamache, MS, CNHA, FACHCA
Learn how a group of people from different disciplines can work together to improve end-of-life care and how we honor death for all members of the community. Learn about the four points of a mission statement that changed one organization’s approach:
- We believe death is sacred;
- We believe that no one should die alone;
- We believe staff, families and Elders need time and space to grieve; and
- We honor the memory of every life we have been privileged to touch.
Elmhurst Extended Care’s Celebration of Life program was honored by Rhode Island Quality Partners as the recipient of the Advancing Innovation in Healthcare Award in 2009. Our distinguished panelists will share how Celebration of Life is not only devoted to improving end-of-life care, but also to celebrating the lives of Elmhurst community members.
Cheryl Fitzgerald, Director of Clinical Services at Elmhurst Extended Care, is a nurse practitioner certified in geriatrics and an Eden Alternative Mentor. Sharon Wolff, Director of Social Services, is an Eden Alternative Mentor and Chair of Elmhurst’s Celebration of Life Committee. Richard Gamache serves as Administrator of Elmhurst Extended Care. He is also an Eden Alternative Educator and Mentor. Join us on August 18th for this inspiring webinar experience!
A lady at the garage told me there was a tornado warning in our area this morning, a rare thing in Ithaca. I couldn’t confirm it, although we are expecting thunderstorms this afternoon. It reminded me of another July day several years ago when a summer storm took down about a third of the huge, beautiful maple tree that graces our side yard, breaking our hearts, but thankfully, not our cars or our necks.
The same storm had blown over a favorite flowering tree in a neighbor’s farmyard. She and her husband had lived on their property their entire married life, raising cows, pigs, children, and grandchildren. Now Jean* was the full-time caregiver for Bob,* whose stroke left him in bed and unable to care for himself.
Whenever I visited, Jean lamented the loss of her tree, talking about how strong it had been, how tall, how sturdy. She just couldn’t believe it was gone, uprooted by the summer wind. Her grief for the tree continued; she mentioned it every time I called, and seemed unable to get over it.
Jean was a doting wife and meticulous care partner for Bob, and it was clear she was as madly in love with him as the day she met and married him. Bob was often confused, but always liked to flirt with female visitors, and in his occasional confusion would tell me that he’d been out cutting wood that day, or tending to the pigs. In his mind he was as strong and as busy as ever.
One day I watched Bob lying in his bed and Jean hovering over him, adjusting his blankets and teasing him.
It was in that moment that I realized I was looking at the Great Tree on the farm, the one that had been felled, and for whom Jean was grieving in the deepest, most hidden part of her heart.
*All names and identifying details in this story have been changed to protect privacy. Lisa Kendall is a clinical social worker who works with Elders and their Care Partners, and is an Eden at Home Educator.