A fairly common frustration shared by people currently dealing with loss and tragedy in their life is the rest of the world doesn’t seem to be aware of everything they’re going through. Because they’re focusing so much on the big changes in their life like a loved one, or even themselves, entering palliative care or hospice care, it seems strange to see life going on as usual for other residents of Mount Vernon and elsewhere.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is always happy to talk to family members – or sometimes the clients themselves – who may feel this disconnect. It’s completely normal and there’s nothing wrong with it so there’s no reason to feel guilty or frustrated.
Because our home health care team has been working with families throughout Eastern Iowa for many years, we’re familiar with many of the feelings people have about this and why they have them.
We’re always happy to listen and also offer recommendations for different ways for people to get help and talk to others who understand, whether it’s a counselor, a grief therapist, or a local support group. The latter option is especially welcoming since these types of groups are often full of people who know what you’re experiencing and feeling, have already gone through it, or are going through it now.
You’re probably not going to get the average population of your hometown to be aware of or even care about what you’re going through. Although, you might be surprised how many people out there have dealt with loss or are dealing with it now. You may not know how they feel because your feelings are so new and raw so it’s easy to assume they’re fine.
But what you can do is find ways to appreciate what’s going on externally as well and help balance some of the internal pain you may be going through.
For instance, if you’re dealing with this grief at the end of the year, no one says you have to ignore people’s holiday decorations. In fact, if going out and looking at them makes you happy, do this and do it often.
Driving or walking around the neighborhood as a family or groups of friends to see festive holiday lights or look at holiday displays at businesses in a city can bring everyone’s spirits up. So what’s the harm in that? It might be a nice outing and great for everyone’s mental health to do so, rather than everyone thinking that they should be staying indoors being sad and serious all the time – this just makes things gloomy when they can be merry and bright.
Finding bright spots
This activity doesn’t have to be reserved for the holidays either. People who are on palliative care or receiving hospice services can still look for ways to find joy whatever time of year or whatever local event is in progress. Here are some ways you can make it work.
- Give yourself a break. Mental health professionals will say it’s OK, even helpful, for you to think of other things sometimes other than you or a loved one’s decline or even pending death. If you can be distracted for a few hours by a summer barbecue or a spring birthday party, that’s good for everyone, and nothing to feel guilty about. You can even joke about “getting a doctor’s note” for permission since just about any provider would OK some sort of outing as long as no one overdid things.
- Go out and make memories. Your loved ones will likely want to remember some of the final moments together, especially if you did things that were interesting. A last trip to the beach or a similar happy place with the whole family or a small group of friends could be a bit bittersweet in the short term, but a wonderful, treasured experience for survivors to share together and look back upon later fondly.
- Get everyone’s input. One of the unusual things about grief is that everyone goes through it at different speeds. The person who is on hospice care may be excited to get as much out of life before they can’t anymore. They may want to go out and have adventures but may be surrounded by concerned family members who don’t want him or her to leave, which could come out as not wanting anyone to leave the house. Or vice versa – family members may want to go enjoy themselves but the special person in their life may need some nudging especially if they’re feeling depressed. Acknowledging these different feelings but still emphasizing a wish to go out and have fun could be a good conversation.
- Grow connections. If you have friends or family around the country, consider contacting them all virtually. You can send individual video greetings for a certain holiday or get everyone together occasionally for a virtual hang-out. This also can turn into a good time but able to keep things safe. They’ll enjoy being able to interact and brighten everyone’s spirits, especially those unable to gather in person.
- Keep traditions. Next year will be different but this year can include all sorts of favorite holiday rituals and traditions. It can help people focus on the little details but also make circumstances more enjoyable for all.