Bereavement support at Msunduzi Hospice
The death of someone close to us, throws us into a sea of chaotic feelings. Sometimes the waves of emotion seem powerful enough to threaten our survival; sometimes they feel relentless and never ending; sometimes they quieten down only to arise months or even years later when we least expect them.
I am not sure who made this statement, however in my experience as a grief worker, I think it is the most apt description of how intensely people can be affected by grief. The other purpose of this statement is that it puts grief and bereavement into perspective.
The grief of bereavement is often accompanied by very strong and painful feelings. The business of navigating this maze of feelings and/or emotions manifests itself when the bereaved person does not understand why they are behaving, feeling or responding in a manner which is so foreign to them.
A lot of times the bereaved are worried about these intense feelings/emotions and become anxious when they are unable to describe these adequately and or control what they are experiencing. This begs the question WHY DO PEOPLE NEED BEREAVEMENT?
• To assist them to come to terms with the loss they have experienced.
• To comfort the bereaved as and when needed.
• To ensure that the bereaved does not believe they are going mad.
• To deal with the often unwarranted responses directed at those close to them.
• To answer some of the ‘why me’ questions.
• To provide the bereaved with the insight to make informed choices about their loss experience.
• To provide the bereaved with a safe space to verbalise their insecurities.
• To address concerns about what is sometimes seen as ‘stupid’ thoughts/feelings/questions.
• To encourage the bereaved to take care of themselves whilst they endeavour to cope with the difficulties faced when grieving.
• To allow the bereaved to express their sometimes negative feelings associated with the deceased and not to feel guilty about them.
• To assist the bereaved not to make major decisions which could seem very tempting in order to alleviate the sadness and pain however if necessary to discuss this with a trustworthy and experienced person.
• To assist the bereaved in distinguishing between death and non-death loss.
• To normalise some of the foreign responses/feelings/thoughts experienced whilst grieving.
• To normalise exhaustion, emotional vulnerability, lethargy, social isolation, sleeplessness, forgetfulness, lack of concentration, confusion, loss of appetite etcetera as symptoms associated with grieving.
• To assist the bereaved to deal with the anger directed at the deceased, the doctors, God, themselves or a higher being.
• To explain that the bereaved have certain tasks to complete in order to experience their grief journey as meaningful.
• To encourage the bereaved to hold on to the memories created with the deceased (good or bad) and advise them that anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas and New year can be particularly difficult.
• To assist the bereaved to carve their own path which will assist them to view their grief journey as not necessarily a dreadful experience.
“You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying overhead, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.” Chinese Proverb
Bereavement support is available at Msunduzi Hospice to those family members of patients who have died. There is a support group available to members of the public who have not been connected with Msunduzi Hospice previously. Please contact our offices for more details on these services.
Prepared by Letitia Marias (Social Worker)