Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Make a Plan for a Good Death

The peculiar problems of modern death — often overly medicalized and unnecessarily prolonged — are no longer abstractions to me. Even though I swim daily and take no medications, somewhere beyond the horizon, my death has saddled his horse and is heading my way. I want a better death than many of those I’ve recently seen.

In this I’m not alone. According to a 2017 Kaiser Foundation study, 7 in 10 Americans hope to die at home. But half die in nursing homes and hospitals, and more than a tenth are cruelly shuttled from one to the other in their final three days. Pain is a major barrier to a peaceful death, and nearly half of dying Americans suffer from uncontrolled pain. Nobody I know hopes to die in the soulless confines of an Intensive Care Unit. But more than a quarter of Medicare members cycle through one in their final month, and a fifth of Americans die in an ICU.

This state of affairs has many causes, among them fear, a culture-wide denial of death, ignorance of medicine’s limits, and a language barrier between medical staff and ordinary people. “They often feel abandoned at their greatest hour of need,” an HMO nurse told me about her many terminally ill patients. “But the oncologists tell us that their patients fire them if they are truthful.”

I don’t want this to be my story.

She tells us to have a vision, understand our health, and make sure we have a tribe and caregivers. Well worth reading and saving.

How to Prepare Yourself for a Good End of Life by Katy Butler

Sunday, February 10, 2019

No, We Don't Get Over It and That's The Way it Should Be

Love is forever, which means loss is forever, which means grief is forever. It hurts, but it keeps us close.

We will grieve forever because we love forever. There is no end to our love for our child, therefore there is no end to our grief– not in our lifetime, anyway. We will grieve forever. We will never get over it.

The presumption is that since our child’s death happened years ago– a presumably finite event– how are we not over it by now? As if child loss is something you can get over– likening it to something far less horrific that can be conquered if you only try hard enough, think positively, or pull yourself up by the bootstraps. As if it’s a hurdle you can easily jump over, or a roadblock you can simply go around and then move on. As if sunshine, rainbows and unicorns will magically greet you once enough time has passed and you cross into “I’m-over-it” land. This may work for other things, but not child loss.

It’s time to bust a long-standing myth about child loss and grief. There is no getting over it. Child loss is not something you get over. Ever. You don’t get over watching the living, breathing piece of your heart and soul, your flesh and blood, your child– die. It’s simply not. possible. to get over the death of your child. You will grieve the death of your child until your last breath.

Why We Will Never Get Over It

Saturday, February 9, 2019

When Grief Feels Like Anger

“I’m just so angry all the time, and I don’t like it. I hate how angry I am.”

I looked into her eyes and replied, “I’m not sure you’re angry. Have you ever considered that you might be grieving, that you may be in mourning right now?”

“Wow,” she said. “I never thought about it that way. That’s exactly what it feels like.”

Almost immediately she could name everything she was lamenting the loss of.

Grief looks a lot like anger on the outside.

You’re Not Angry Right Now, You’re Grieving

Monday, February 4, 2019

Poem: House Grief

I must've ordered the house grief.
That full-bodied red.
Tastes like rust, is cheap and everywhere.

Ann Alder Walsh

Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Poem of Farewell

God saw you were getting weaker, calmer,
so He did what he thought best.
He came and stood beside you
and He whispered "Come to rest."
We could not understand it,
no matter how we tried.
If love alone could have saved you
you never would have died.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

When the Soul Leaves the House

Doesn't it seem that the home knows when the person who lived there has died?

Brian Dillon writes about "The Empty Space."

A house changes after somebody has died: There is suddenly too much space. We all know the symptoms of that change. We set an extra place at the table. We leave empty for months, even years, a chair in which the de­ceased used to sit. We imagine that at any moment the lost loved one will appear in the room (the air, the light, the whole room would subtly alter). These phenomena are familiar to the point of cliché. So well-known, in fact, that, even in the shock of our bereavement, we are sur­prised (in my case, embarrassed; shame seems to have covered for every other emotion) to find ourselves suc­cumbing to them, as if we feel our grief must, surely, be more original than that. When nothing is said of the ab­sence at the heart of the house, these lapses multiply; if only we could name the emptiness—we do know, after all, its name, her name—we would surely be better able to navigate around it, to keep moving. But time and again we find ourselves stranded in these ludicrous poses, like a photograph from which one figure has been erased: four dummies with nothing to say to one another.

Monday, January 28, 2019

A Man Cares for his Wife with Dementia -- With the Help of His Girlfriend

Design/cooking/lifetyle expert B. Smith has dementia. The woman once called "the black Martha Stewart" once presided over an empire that included restaurants and magazines, but now she has dementia. Her husband still cares for her lovingly and keeps her fans up to date through social media. But some of them are upset because he has a girlfriend, who helps him in caring for her.

“We were friends,” Alex said. “I didn’t want to go out with a married man.” Plus, she’d socialized with B. at charity events. But when Dan invited her to breakfast at a popular hotel with B., she accepted.

Finally, she saw. “This is not a man cheating on his wife,” she told herself. In the middle of breakfast, Alex helped B. to the bathroom.

Alex had a nurturing spirit. And she saw the same in him. “What I admire about him,” she said, “is that he takes care of her.” ....Despite the online response, those who know Dan and B. defend the relationship. “Anybody that would judge Dan knows nothing about the disease and the toll it takes” on a marriage, Schnayerson said. “If you can find a companion who can help you get through that, all power to you.”

Dana also pointed out that her father has not abandoned B. by any measure. “She’s in this house. She’s here every day,” she said.

And, on many days, so is Alex. “If I can be compassionate to her,” Alex said, her voice breaking, “if I can do anything for her, it makes me feel good. If it is giving her something to drink, or making her something to eat — she loves to eat — I feel good.”

Lifestyle guru B. Smith has Alzheimer’s. Her husband has a girlfriend. Her fans aren’t having it.