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The other day, an elderly lady stopped by to complete a few remaining details about her son’s funeral. As we took care of the remaining items, she began to tell the story of her son who had succumbed from a rare form of brain cancer. Her son was her only child and since he never married or had children, in his later years she took care of him at her home. Her husband lived there also but was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. Compacting the care that she had extended to her son and husband, came a sudden illness to herself; At first her illness was thought to be a minor concern, but soon thereafter resulted with unexpected bypass surgery. Upon recovery from surgery, she further developed additional illnesses that placed her into a complete care facility for an additional six weeks. Upon the day that she was finally released to return home, she learned that her son had been placed into hospice on that very same day. Soon thereafter, her son died with she and father at his bedside – a caring environment from within her own home. She and she alone had no one to help carry the burden of grief . . . And I sat there listening to her story . . . without much to say . . . but listening intently to each word she said as she conveyed her grief in a way that only a mother could.
That experience reminded me of the work of Dr. J. William Worden did when studying bereavement. Dr. Worden identifies that the work of mourning has four tasks: to accept the reality of the loss, to process the pain of grief, to adjust to a world without the deceased, and to find an enduring connection with the deceased in the midst of embarking on a new life. Listening is sometimes the most important assistance we can render to those afflicted with grief.
To learn more about the tasks of mourning, Fond Remembrance conducts an advance care planning workshop. Contact Fond Remembrance for more information.