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The Journey Still Matters

I thought about what to write this week, trying to figure out what people need to hear. Hospice professionals are tired and stressed – nothing new there. Unpaid caregivers (over 4 million of them in the U.S.) are isolated like never before as we deal with social distancing and quarantines.

During a call yesterday about some personal business, a woman that I’ve never met shared with me that her mother was put on hospice a few days ago. A long-time struggle with Alzheimer’s dementia had taken its toll. The woman, along with her sister, was called to the assisted living facility where their mom has been living for the past five years. Everything she shared with me about her mom indicated an end-stage disease status.

We took some time to talk about hospice basics and some of the things she could expect from the agency, and from the disease trajectory. It was a good discussion even though the events were difficult for her. I prayed that somehow I had managed to help.

Anticipatory grief related to an ongoing illness in the middle of a global pandemic. Does that even get to be a thing? Decline from dementia is still happening. People with chronic and life-limiting illness are still experiencing the every day struggles. End of life interdisciplinary teams are still providing care as they deal with restrictions on how that care can be provided.

It’s easy to look at an anticipated loss in the middle of everything that’s going on the current COVID-19 world, and think that loss is insignificant. That loss is one of many, maybe not even related to the corona virus. It’s one of hundreds of funerals or memorial services that will be postponed until it’s safe to gather.

The death might seem like just a blip on the radar. A momentary event that doesn’t rock the world or send ripples out across the country.

That death matters. Every single death matters. In a world where our grief becomes more disenfranchised every day due to social distancing and restrictions on healthcare provision, your journey still matters.

Family, friend, healthcare professional, volunteer – don’t write off your grief for your singular loss because you think can’t it stack up to the tragedy of so many losses around the world. It’s not a competition to see who has the bigger grief burden. You get to feel your loss.

Your journey matters. Forget about saying “It could have been worse”, or “At least it wasn’t (fill in terrible scenario here)”. Don’t compare your grief to someone else’s, or to the expanse of what’s happening across the country or on the planet.

You get to grieve. Take the time and space to do it now. We might be postponing funerals but we’re not postponing grief. This goes for you hospice professionals out there as well. Your secondary grief still matters. Your work hasn’t stopped, so the grief doesn’t either.

Remember The Heart of Hospice is here to support you. Our podcast is available to you 24/7 at a time and place that’s convenient for you. We’re asking that you share the blog and podcasts on your social media to help support those of your friends and colleagues who are grieving.

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, but life doesn’t stop. Neither does death. Your journey still matters.

No matter who you are, or where you are in your hospice journey,

you are The Heart of Hospice.

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