Sitting at the bedside of my dying aunt a short time ago, I questioned myself if I had become numb to death after working in hospice over the last three decades. At the age of 94, she had lived a good long life. She was a hard worker, a kind and loving soul, and it was now her time to rest. So, while she lay there with her eyes closed, and her hands in constant movement, I spoke to her about her six siblings who had gone before her and what a wonderful reunion they would soon have.
Would I be sad if my aunt were gone from this earth? Absolutely. But I would be joy-filled knowing that she had lived fully each day that she was given.
The place I found myself in at her bedside was extremely peaceful and calm, yet when I processed what was happening before my eyes there was a snowball effect of emotions. I started to grieve – not just for her life, but for that of my mother who was her baby sister and the most recent one to leave us. I soon found myself reviewing my final goodbyes with each family member and reliving the many memories that brought both smiles and tears. However, I also realized that with each subsequent loss through the years, it was less traumatic for me, and therefore the concern for being “numb to death” entered my conscious.
I choose to embrace that we are gifted one life – a life to live fully, with respect, and with honor by sharing our love and talents with those who surround us. And although it’s never easy to say goodbye, I know that we must accept death as a natural part of life. Recognizing that reality can be extremely peaceful.
Despite death being the most prominent loss during our lifetime, we may find ourselves grieving the loss of a job, a home, or even the loss of a relationship.
No two people grieve the same because grief work is a personal journey – there is no “cookie cutter” plan. We all are affected differently, and we may work through some or all stages of grief including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. One may even work through one stage only to return to it at another point in the healing process.
There is no way around facing grief at some point in one’s life. However, it should not paralyze us. There are healthy ways to reduce or cope with it while we work toward recovery. Over time, one may find that it happens naturally. But if one feels consumed with grief to the point that it debilitates their existence then it’s important to seek out intervention by a professional grief counselor.
Raising awareness of grief as we do on August 30 each year for National Grief Awareness Day, will hopefully encourage people to communicate about their grief struggles, provide a guide on how to recognize healthy vs. non-healthy grieving behaviors, and gain strength in working toward a healthy future.
Have questions on hospice? Call our education line at 412.710.7300.