Making peace with loss

by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Electronic Communications Manager

I’ve been very lucky that I have not had to experience the long, drawn-out death of a person I love.  (As I type this, I am knocking on every piece of wood within arm’s reach.) 

When you work for a hospice organization, though, you will inevitably have the discussion about whether it’s easier to lose a loved one quickly (so as not to watch any suffering) or have plenty of notice (so that you have time to say a proper goodbye).  I think the jury is still out on this one, but I do know one thing: if you have advance notice that a loved one is going to die, it’s unquestionably more tolerable if you are emotionally prepared for it.

There is a kind of grief, called “anticipatory grief”, that doesn’t get talked about much, but it’s very real and very painful.  It’s the terrifying wave of shock, fear, and sadness that comes with the diagnosis of a terminal illness.  It’s the terror of losing someone dearly loved.  It’s the helpless and angry feelings that surface when you know that you have no control over the march of time.  That an ending is coming and there’s nothing you can do about it.

In other words, anticipatory grief is very complicated.  Unbalanced and emotional.  And very raw because it begins right after learning that a loved one is going to die and lasts until the sad day comes.

That’s why Larry Dawalt, Director of Spiritual and Grief Care Services at HPCCR, has developed a presentation on this very topic.  It’s called Dealing With Life’s Losses and it’s designed to help participants make sense of their emotions and to prepare (as best they can) for the death of someone they love.  The session also counsels the participants on taking care of themselves (that’s always the first thing that goes out the window) and offers ways to channel anxious energy into making the relationship with the loved one as meaningful as possible in the time remaining. 

In other words, this session is a gentle preparation for what’s to come from someone who’s seen it all.  Over the course of his career, Larry has had every emotion thrown at him and has helped countless people through their anger, sadness, and feelings of injustice.  He can’t change the inevitable path of life, but he can make the final journey a little more manageable for the helpless bystander who, no doubt, didn’t raise their hand for this awful roller coaster ride.

Larry is offering the seminar twice in one day: from 2-4pm on Tuesday, September 11, and again from 6-8pm that evening.  Both sessions will be held at The Ivey, a memory care center in south Charlotte that provides day services for individuals living with Alzheimer’s and other types of memory loss. 

So if you, or someone you know, is dealing with anticipatory grief and the knowledge that time is fleeting with a loved one, Dealing With Life’s Losses may be just what is needed.  I know that if my frantic wood-knocking doesn’t work and I find myself in this position, you can bet that Larry Dawalt will be added to my speed dial.  Like I said, he won’t change the outcome, but he will give perspective.  And he may just help bring on the beginnings of acceptance.  Because, as far as I’m concerned, acceptance is the first step in making peace with loss.   Can I get an “Amen”?

The Ivey is located at 6030 Park South Drive in Charlotte. Pre-registration is requested. To pre-register, call 704.909.2070.

Explore posts in the same categories: awareness, dementia, education, end of life, grief, hospice, spiritual care

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