September 28, 2017

As Bereavement and Grief Specialist, we are gatekeepers. Gatekeepers are persons who are in the position to recognize a crisis and warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide.

Helping your child say goodbye

September 5, 2017

Rituals, like a funeral or scattering ashes in a special place, are an important way for adults to say goodbye to a loved one. Bereaved children may also benefit from the chance to remember loved ones in this way. It can help them express their grief and share it with others.

Talking about death and who can help

August 28, 2017

The death of someone close is one of the hardest things anyone has to face. It can be especially difficult to help a child manage their grief while you’re dealing with your own. Although you can’t protect a child from the pain that follows a bereavement there are things you can do to help them come to terms with their loss.

The Guide to Pet Bereavement: What to Expect After the Loss of a Loved One

August 21, 2017

This guide helps you console your pet through the loss of its loved one, be it a human or another animal. You will learn some of the warning signs that your pet is having a hard time dealing with her grief, as well as some of the ways you can both be there for each other as you mourn. Remember, your furry pal is dealing with a traumatic experience, too. Although she may not be able to tell you exactly how she is feeling, there are plenty of things you can do to help her return to her normal, happy self.

When Grief Becomes a Mental Health Issue

August 14, 2017

What do you do when grief becomes a mental health issue? Recently I lost a friend to suicide, and it made me think of all the other losses I’ve suffered. Two memories stand out in my mind–the death of my maternal grandfather to cancer and the death of my paternal grandmother to a stroke. One was a mental health issue, the other was not. There are several things people can do when grief becomes a mental health issue.

Dementia Patients and Grief

July 31, 2017

The death of a loved one is difficult for anyone, but it is a special challenge when someone in the family has dementia. It’s hard for family members to know how and when to tell the person with dementia about the death. And what should they do when the person doesn’t remember?

Coping With a Child’s Illness While You’re in Recovery

July 24, 2017

Getting the news that your child is dangerously–perhaps even fatally–ill is one of the most difficult things any parent will ever go through. It is life-changing, and for many, it seems like a nearly impossible task to get through it without the help of drugs or alcohol to numb the pain. What those in recovery know, however, is that substances will only make things worse in the long run. They may provide temporary relief in the now, but later, the original issue is still there and is clouded by the shame or guilt that came with the substance abuse.

It’s a terrible thing, to watch a child go through an illness or deal with life-altering consequences, and it can lead to depression and other mood disorders very quickly. For that reason, it’s imperative to make a conscious decision now to learn coping methods that are healthy and don’t require a substance. It is possible, and with a little help, you can get through it.

Final Logistics: A step-by-step guide to handling a loved one’s belongings after their death

July 17, 2017

When someone passes away, they leave everything behind, including their belongings. It falls to the surviving loved ones to rehome or reorganize these items, from leftover food in the kitchen to linens in the closet. But remembering which housekeeping tasks need to get done among all the other final arrangements can feel overwhelming, and that’s not stress a grieving family should have to face.

The New Stages of Grief: 5 Tasks, No Timeline

July 10, 2017

What bereaved survivors wish they’d known about the grieving process

Bereaved people often brace for the so-called stages of grief, only to discover their own grieving process unfolds differently. The stages of grief — popularized from earlier theories put forth by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying, and later modified by others — initially described responses to terminal illness: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. While some find those responses relevant to coping with death, psychologists increasingly believe that the idea of “stages” oversimplifies a complex experience. And grieving survivors seem to agree.

A Collision of the Cost of Caring and Grief

June 28, 2017

“I’m exhausted and I just can’t seem to focus.” These are the words often spoken by many people who are experiencing grief in response to the loss of a loved one. However, these can also be some warning signs that a person may be experiencing the effects of Compassion Fatigue. Sometimes labeled “Vicarious Trauma”, Compassion Fatigue is defined as the “physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those that care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time.”1 Often times a family member or a good friend takes on the role of caregiver for a person who is nearing the end of their life. As the days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years go by, the caregiver consistently and fully invests themselves into caring for their loved one. There is no question that the caregiver is an amazing blessing to the person. They have sacrificed their own desires and needs in order to care for their loved one with such devotion. However, while a caregiver may not notice it in the day to day moments, there is a cost for caring and the cost is often not realized until after a loved one has passed away. This is where the cost of caring and grief collide.

What to Watch For
While caregivers are often locked into survival mode and unable to recognize signs of Compassion Fatigue until after a loved one has passed, there are definitely some signs to be on the lookout for. When these signs are recognized, a caregiver can take preventive steps to care for themselves as well. Some common signs of Compassion Fatigue include:
• Exhaustion
• Reduced ability to feel sympathy and empathy
• Anger and irritability
• Increased use of alcohol and drugs
• Dreading caregiving responsibilities
• Disruption to world view, heightened anxiety or irrational fears
• Intrusive imagery or dissociation
• Hypersensitivity or insensitivity to emotional material
• Impaired ability to make decisions and care for a loved one
• Problems with intimacy and in personal relationships

What if it’s too late? What if grief and compassion fatigue and grief have already collided?
It is important to develop a plan if you realize that Compassion Fatigue is complicating your grief. Here are some steps you can take to begin to heal and recover from Compassion Fatigue:
• Find someone with whom you can share honestly and openly about your thoughts and feelings
• Remember that what you are feeling is normal in light of what you have been through
• Start exercising and eating properly
• Get enough sleep
• Find a support group where you can meet people with similar experiences of grief and loss
• Consider developing a new hobby
• Be intentional about scheduling time and space where you can physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually heal. Do this away from your normal environment if necessary.

Grief is a journey with no exact timeframe or road map. Grief is often a very difficult journey in itself with many ups, downs, and bumps along the way. When someone is experiencing the effects of Compassion Fatigue as they travel the road of grief, the journey can feel almost unbearable. If the cost of caring has collided with your grief, reach out for some support today. There are people out there who will walk alongside you and help to ease the pain you are experiencing. You are not alone.

Jeremy Brown, Community Hospice Bereavement Specialist

[1] “Compassion Fatigue.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 22 June 2017.