Bereavement: For the Giver and the Receiver

As year of 2012 kicks into gear, I find myself all too often running into people who want to talk about yesterday. I suppose it is normal to look towards to the future and find it hard to move into it without someone in your life in it; whether that person has gone on before us, or sitting in the chair across the rooms. You see some of us use memories with a smile and want to remember more, some don’t even want you to bring that person’s name up and some wished they could say, “Hey, do you remember when we went to the beach with the kids two years ago?” However, grief sometimes robs us of those very memories.

Most of us have all had a situation when we have had to be the receiver of care or in other times we have had to be the caregiver. As the caregiver, you must fight your own personal needs – your emotional needs, depression, irritability, anxiety, and even resentment. The caregiver must give all – supporting the children, the bills, medication, personal needs. All of those things are suppressed while putting the needs of one above all others.

            In an article caregiving, bereavement and complicated grief, Kathrin Boerner PhD and Richard Scultz PhD advised most deaths are preceded by a chronic illness and disability and the provision of support by family caregivers. These two doctors have suggestions for what professionals can do to help caregivers both before and after death has occurred to cope. I know these are two doctors, and if you know me, dare me to argue or disagree with a doctor.

Yes. I will disagree with their solutions. Yes. I will argue with these two doctors, one doctor having a background in Psychology and Sociology should know that the mind doesn’t work that way when there are emotions involved. I have 4 aunts, and they are all my favorites, but my favorite Aunt Joyce Swett, lost her husband, Micky Swett, about 10 years ago. She still sleeps during the day if she has nothing planned, and she still sleeps in the chair, because she said “Since her and Micky were married, she never slept in her bed alone, and she won’t now.” There was no solution for this type of coping mechanism.

ABC News ran a story about a wife, married in 2001. She had the perfect husband and the perfect marriage. All of a sudden he acted like he didn’t know who he was. He didn’t have anything to do with the kids. After a visit to the doctor and a diagnosis of a glioma, the couple would have many struggles ahead.

There were no bereavement tips. There were no grief plans. It has been brought to my attention there are care-giving experts at the AARP. If you have AARP, then I assume you would know about their services. How about a 45-year-old woman, she has a husband, they are self-employed in a masonry business together, with children, and both appear to be in perfect health. Then in one day, fate would turn everything in their world upside. They left the hospital with no support. They left the funeral home with no support. They lived their lives with no support.

I know what some of you are thinking, if they were involved in a church then, the church would come and help them. The neighbors would give the all the support they need. Even Lynn Feinberg of the AARP said Americans provide an estimated $450 billion in home care for their sick and dying family members. “What doesn’t exist is a structure to support these folks. They have to find their way in an unconnected network of support at a time when they are most stressed?”

The sickness begins earlier than death. It could be days, weeks, months, even years when these caregivers wait, watch, cry silently with their heads in their hands, waiting silently for the next request-the next interaction,  just to have hope that there might be  some form of connection so they don’t feel alone. It’s a lonely place taking the role of the caregiver. It’s even lonelier when others distance themselves from you because they are scared to bring up the good times, the bad ties. Remembering – is what makes all the difference in every role – every day.

Published January 12, 2012, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

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