In my privileged position in working with the bereaved I recognise that everyone grieves in different ways, at different times and in a family unit it is a very difficult time for all concerned.
One of the key things I have noticed is how parents hide their own feelings from their children feeling it inappropriate to cry in front of them. Of course this is to be expected and in a way for some admired but for the grieving parent who may have lost their life time partner it makes their own journey placed on hold to a certain degree.
The British way of being strong, keeping a stiff upper lip is one which frustrates me terribly and this, I speak from personal experience; as a child surrounded by adults set on surpressing their own grief and probably my own too. I always maintain to speak of our loved ones and remember them keeps them alive in our minds, our hearts and of course helps the bereavement process…to deny their existence is not only cruel but of no use to anyone.
If you know of any one mourning a loved one reach out to them and communicate, let them talk, let them cry if they need to…it’s normal. Most of all do not avoid visiting and please do not stop mentioning their loved one either – think of a funny story or a great occasion you shared.
I hardly dare write my blog today in honour of the great Stephen Hawking an inspirational man not just in terms of his great scientific mind but his amazing personal journey and fight against motor neurone disease.
As a non-science girl I believe he made science accessible, interesting and inspiring to everyone. He attended the great St Albans School where for many years they have had their own Stephen Hawking’s Society through which his works have encouraged many an inquisitive young mind, and, will continue to do so.
My title for today’s blog is of course a contradiction in terms as we haven’t completely lost a great mind as he leaves such a fascinating legacy. Our generation have been fortunate to have had him as a brilliant mind challenging the way we thought about the universe and its secrets.
All forms of media will be recording his many thought provoking quotes today -following taken from an interview on Radio 4 with John Humphreys:-
‘If we discovered the complete set of laws, and understood why the universe existed, we would be in the position of God. We are making progress towards that goal, but we still have some way to go.’
Earlier this week during a visit with a bereaved lady we both agreed how we put on a brave face with those around who are also struggling in coming to terms with a loss of a loved one. Why is that? Over the past few years I have read many books on the beravement journey of others and have my own experiences to recollect too and what is blatently obvious is that to deny somebody’s right to grieve openly is of no use.
I am certain I would have said this before -my own mother said people crossed the road to avoid having to speak to her after my father died suddenly. It made me cross and upset then as a child and still does. However, shall we just be angry with the person that does that or should we feel sorry that they cannot find the words…any words? As I have written in various articles just a hand on the arm or shoulder and ‘i’m thinking of you’ will suffice nobody who is recently bereaved expects you to say something profound honestly!
What we need as a bereaved person is for people to acknowledge our pain and the existence of those we have loved and lost. We have such a long way to go still in this country in dealing with how we approach the subject of death and it is something all of us will have to encounter and deal with at some stage of our life.
In a world where people post so many private things about their life (which frankly I would rather not see) I find it hard to believe that talking about death leaves them dumb struck.
As always I am sending a little reminder that it is after the funeral people need you to to phone or visit and let them know their loved one is not forgotten. For anybody who is feeling alone in their grief then please talk to somebody, your loved one would not want you to suffer in silence and most of all celebrate their life.
The pace of life for most is fast, often too fast and so easily we neglect friendships and loved ones. We all need to slow it down at times and remember to tell those we love just how important they are to us.
I know I have said this many times before on my blog but in life we meet many people and some leave their imprint on our hearts forever. It is never a case of how long the friendship lasts but the depth of that relationship and that is what hurts the most when they leave our lives.
The journey of bereavement is a difficult one, sadly, for many without a quick exit route. Anniversaries can be extremely painful but in their own way they are good for us as it gives us the opportunity to release some of our grief. Only yesterday talking to a recently widowed friend I reminded her how it is good to cry. However, we silly English people think it inappropriate to cry; whereas many other countries openly grieve -the latter being far more beneficial.
If we are missing somebody we have lost then there is no shame in saying so. I was personally touched yesterday learning of how a young girl continued to send her grandad text messages after he had died – talking to him in heaven. For us writers we do that constantly, and I am told that my own honest rantings help others too.
Celebrate the relationships you have with those that are with you and continue to do that when they are no longer around as I am certain that is what they would want.
Sending a spiritual hug to those that really need it today.
Remember the tallest poppies are often picked first and that they were beautiful and loved.
I have had the great pleasure of working with dementia clients and their families and I am aware how difficult it is for family members to adust emotionally to the challenges this condition brings.
Discussing with family members we agree in a way it is like a mini bereavement as one watches the person we know, loved, and possibly depended on disappear in front of us.
My key advice is to seek support and make the effort to find out as much as you can to learn new ways of communicating. It helps to find small ways to react in different ways to situations to defuse rather than over react, it takes a great deal of love, patience and understanding. Bear in mind your loved one is living in a very frustrating and confusing world now and needs you more than ever.
There are of course dementia charities who have support groups locally and advice on hand to make the journey easier.
I was pleased to see ‘Call the midwife’ this week featured a young mother who suffered a stroke. Any awareness is useful as knowledge is of course power in life. What a great deal of people do not realise is that strokes can happen at any age it’s not just the elderly. However, often elderly people may suffer a slight stroke (TIA) in their sleep and on waking just feel ‘unwell’.
Our family are stroke aware as we lost our Dad age just 44 to a massive cerebral haemorrage. I also had a slight stroke in my early forties though cause was never discovered. I do as much as I can to raise awareness with stroke symptoms and just as importantly the stroke charities which do such great work supporting stroke suvivors and their families.
The Stroke Association have local support groups and quality information which can prove so useful when having to meet and discuss your situation with medics. Please visit their website:-
I have felt it a real privilege to work with clients with dementia and their families. Any caring profession carries a great deal of trust and as I discussed recently with a colleague staff are checked for suitability… we assume!
I am saddened and deeply so at the news today showing the filming of a carer slapping a lady with dementia who was left in her care. Where is the respect for a fellow human being and especially for somebody elderly and with such difficult challenges to face?
I am also alarmed at some of the actions of those working in nursing homes, again one assumes staff are trained to administer patience, caring and understanding under the umbrella of palliative care. For those that are vulnerable and sometimes too afraid to speak out, staff that bully and intimidate should be ashamed of themselves. If you cannot offer kindness then don’t work with the elderly.
This country really is failing our elderly – I know my generation were brought up to respect our elders – it’s a shame the government are not being more proactive in their policing of private nursing homes where it often appears that making a profit is higher up the priority than providing good care. Let’s face it the homes charge residents and their families a fortune weekly and for some families this is the only alternative when they can no longer cope with elderly parents with any disability.
Yes, I am ranting but we ignore these facts too readily…it’s just unacceptable! I acknowledge that there are some great nursing homes and dedicated staff running them but one resident being abused is one too many!
From a very early age we learn the acceptance of a hug and kiss in the arms of our mother. Throughout our life we may meet, greet and kiss many people but there is far more to the value of a kiss as my ‘The little book of kisses’ reveals. i.e. burning off calories and helping our own dental hygiene.
With Valentine’s Day creeping towards us I hope a few romantics, and, the curious will think of investing in my amusing kindle book:-
I have lost count the times I write about communication being the key to success in any personal or business relationship, but it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves that some people find it harder to communicate than others. This is where patience, caring and understanding step in and we can all do our bit even in our own community and within families.
A recent blog I ranted about how people in wheelchairs or disabilities are often ignored (a discussion I had earlier this week with a new friend**) additionally we agreed this can happen when people are recently bereaved as we search for the right words to offer in sympathy -there are no words but don’t avoid people either. Don’t under estimate the power of a simple hand of the arm and just saying ‘i’m thinking of you.’ **Hi Julia if you are following.
Equally, many will find it awkward to speak to somebody with dementia but there is help available. As ever I am steering my followers to the Alzheimer’s Society’s website: within their wide selection of free literature you will find easy tips to follow to enhance your relationship with, and the life of, the person living with dementia.
Being elderly can become very isolating and lonely so pop in and see that neighbour… a quick bit of engagement will make their day.
I was once told that I was born old…had an old soul! Maybe this is why I have always had a great affinity with those in their Autumn years especially those who keep spring in their hearts.
Over the years and during my working career holding various positions I have witnessed some truly amazing things, but, also seen and heard things that make me my blood boil.
I am appalled when people are dissmissive of our aged friends and family members who have so much to offer from their personal wisdom and even perhaps their local and social history knowledge. Additionally, those who deem fit of ignoring people in wheelchairs…only yesterday whilst out shopping I met an amazing lady of advancing years who had great character and looked stunning and her wheelchair was only a barrier for those with a closed mind. The encounter was brief but memorable.
My professional working projects with the elderly have brought me great joy and borne friendships that I will never forget. It has been a real privilege during one-to-one session work to get to know individuals and their personal stories.
As I was only saying yesterday to one of my own mentors nothing in life that we do is a waste and we go on learning. Exercising patience, love, kindness and understanding can enrich the lives of others and of course our own!