My first experience with hospice services began in high school when my grandparents moved into our home after they both received a terminal diagnosis. Their diagnoses were devastating to our family, but we were dedicated to making them comfortable in our home and our routines became based on their needs.
My mom coordinated hospice services, in-home caregivers, and out-of-town visitors’ schedules to ensure that no matter what the quantity, the quality of her parents’ lives would be full of meaning.
This would be one of the most stressful times of our lives, but with the help of hospice, we knew we could face the unknown of their diseases.
We relied on the hospice nurses’ expertise in medication management to assist my grandmother to be as pain free as possible which was important to combat the spreading cancer.
My grandfather was given medical equipment like oxygen to help his breathing. The seasoned hospice staff provided helpful tips so that he could maintain as much independence as possible since the ALS affected his body but not his sharp mind.
We were as prepared as possible for the medical implications of their disease progressions; however, I don’t think we could have ever been prepared for the loss of both of these precious people just 18 days a part.
My grandparents were the most special people in my life and had a unique role in my upbringing. When they passed away I had difficulty accepting the reality of the loss and adjusting to a new life, where my grandparents did not exist in a physical form. I longed for their presence and tried to find ways to maintain a connection to them which according to Worden’s 4 Tasks of Grief (a therapeutic model used by the grief counselors in the Center for Grief Support) is a typical experience for those experiencing grief.
My mom, now an “adult orphan” could not adjust without the professional help of hospice. She knew hospice had said they would “be there after the death” for support so she reached out. She learned of a grief support group and decided to join. As part of her grief process, my mom utilized a closed-ended support group (much like our Grief in Progress group) where she joined with others who were grieving. This group normalized her experience and taught her healthy ways to cope with loss. Ultimately it lead her in a very positive direction, one my grandparents would be proud to see.
When I’m developing programs for the Center for Grief Support, I see them from the perspective of a grief counselor but also from another perspective—one that is very much personal to my own life’s experiences.
Sara Cohick is the social services manager at Hospice of the Panhandle. Hospice is a not-for-profit agency that has cared for patients and families with life-limiting illnesses in Berkeley, Morgan, Hampshire and Jefferson counties since 1980. For more information on how hospice helps residents of the four-county area live more fully, call 304-264-0406, or visit on-line at www.hospiceotp.org