End-of-Life Planning Workshop Scheduled!

End-of-Life Planning Workshop Scheduled!

Wed., Nov. 16th 6-7pm

RSVP PREFERRED: Contact Tracy Brookshier:573-324-2111 ext.140  tbrookshier@pikecountyhealth.org
Pike County Health Dept. Home Health & Hospice
Conference Room (side entrance)
1 Healthcare Place, Bowling Green, MO 63334

Join us in this free community event to assist you in ensuring all of your end-of-life decisions will be carried out how you wish.

We will be discussing topics such as:
• Communicating about your end-of-life decisions
• Choosing a hospice provider
• Managing end-of-life pain
• Life Planning work sheets provided
• Living Wills
• Advance Directives
• Financial Power of Attorneys and other Considerations
• Funeral preferences and arrangements
• Organ and body donations
• What to expect when a loved one dies

We will be providing:
• Snacks
• Life planning booklet with work sheets
• lawyers and other professionals for general questions
• A local Notary to complete official documents

Download this flyer >>>

Take our survey for a chance to win!

Take our survey for a chance to win!

November is National Hospice Month! We will be spending the month sharing information about hospice and the amazing care we can provide to you and your loved ones. We are giving away 4 of these baskets, one each Friday through November. Each contains:

  • Golden Wire Basket
  • Coffee Themed Dish Rag
  • Fall floral Decor
  • Custom Pike County Hospice Coffee Tumbler
  • Pike County Home Health & Hospice Coffee Cup Insulator
  • Milk House Candle Co. Scented Candle from Prairies Edge
  • Pike County Custom Wooden Sign made by our own Hillary Hakenwerth
  • Custom Sunflower Painting by our own Tracy Brookshier
  • Spring Hollow Coffee Grounds donated by Spring Hollow Coffee

Take our quick survey to be entered in for your chance to win!

Ask an expert

Ask an expert

Question
My children were very close to their grandmother. My mom only lived two blocks away, so my kids often walked to her house after school to hang out. She had many sleepovers with all three of them when they were younger. In later years she’d only have one at a time but that was even more special. During Covid lockdown the drop-ins and overnights had to stop, of course. Then she got diagnosed with advanced lym­phatic cancer and went downhill quickly. We rallied around her in hospice, and my kids were so sweet in showing their love for her before she died last spring. We are doing okay in our grief, I think, but I’m worried about Halloween. My kids are only 6, 10, and 13. Will Halloween set them back? What can I do?

Answer
I offer you my deep sympathy at the loss of your mother and the children’s grandmother. It is clear that she was very special to all of you. And thanks for bringing forward an important concern that can catch bereaved persons by surprise: trigger events that suddenly set off intense grieving emotions.

Halloween can certainly be such a trigger event, with its many images of tombstones, scary skeletons, frightening sounds, and the like. Despite the fun of candy received while trick or treating, the customs of Halloween while one is still freshly grieving can be a bit overwhelming.

It may help to remember that the playing with and about death at Halloween represents common human longing for lost loved ones. In its own way, Halloween honors the dead and seeks to welcome or be in the presence of those we’ve loved and lost. Halloween practices actually have religious roots. Samhain, a Wiccan observance of harvest time, is based in part on the belief that the veil that separates the worlds of the living and of the dead is at its thinnest from October 31 to November 1. For Christians, All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2 are solemn holy days for prayer and reflection to draw close those who have died. Many Hispanic cultures observe El Dia de las Muertos, Day of the Dead, to experience this same closeness as well. Many Jewish gravestones include a similar spiritual consolation expressed in an acronym which stands for “May his/her soul be bound up with the souls of the living.”

If your family has a religious practice, connect to that community or reach out to the clergy. Most faith communities will welcome and support you during this time. Grief is nearly always an expression of love and longing, so a con­versation ahead of time about what you each think Halloween will be like without her this year is important. Be careful, though, to not sur­prise or pressure them into such a conversation. You might lead off with a memory you have of Halloween with your mother before you had children. Then invite them to think about one or two Halloween memories with her to share together the following day. Remind your children that writing a memory – even if only a sentence or two – can be a useful way to share it with each other. Spending the extra time to write it down will also help each of them process the emotions and thoughts that go along with such recollections before they are shared with others.

Each of your children is at a different developmental level of understanding death or expressing grief. While I cannot go into those details here, there are many books and online resources about how children may grieve depending on their chronological age, experience, and overall maturity. I’d encourage you to contact the bereavement staff at the hospice that provided care for your mother for resources and suggestions.

You have your own grief about your mother’s death, which you need to honor even as you support your children in their grief for their grandmother. Both can be accomplished, but it is important to take good care of yourself first. Find ways to rest and restore your equilib­rium so you will have the inner strength to attend to their needs also.
Remember that we never grieve alone, so reach out to family, friends, and hospice professionals for backup support as the holiday season approaches.

 

  • The Rev. Paul A. Metzler, DMin, an Episcopal priest and psychotherapist, is semi-retired following over 40 years of service as a clergy member, therapist, and hospice-based grief counselor. October 2022 Edition of Journeys Bereavement Newsletter. Email your questions for the experts to askjourneys@hospicefoundation.org. 

Will I always feel this sad?

Will I always feel this sad?

Almost every grief client I have known has asked this question. We both imagine and dread the endlessness of being in pain over our loss. Whether spoken aloud or not, everyone who grieves wonders: will I ever get over this loss?

The answer is both yes and no. We may miss someone we lost for a long time, especially if they were a big part of our everyday lives. But missing someone and being in pain because of their absence are not the same thing. Missing someone doesn’t have to be painful.

In part the extent of our sorrow depends on whom we lost. How significant was this person to us? Also was this person in our daily life? The condition of the person who died also affects how we grieve. If the deceased suffered for a long time before dying, we may release them more easily. Sudden and unexpected deaths can impact us more severely and take longer to accept. We may more easily come to terms with the death of one who was very ill, already very compromised, or very old.

Another key factor is how complete we felt we were with the deceased. Often what holds us back from recov­ering from loss is when we have regrets, resentments or other feelings we never expressed. This can slow down our recovery. But it is never too late to have an out-loud imaginary conversation for and with yourself where you express all that you withheld from the one who died.

I have often reassured clients that you need not grieve forever. By that I mean you don’t have to be immersed in the intensity of your sorrow for the rest of your life. We have to trust that with time our pain will lessen and even­tually subside. We may still miss a loved one long after they are gone. But in time missing is no longer painful. I believe we have a choice over how much and how long we suffer over losses. Instead of counting the number of days or weeks or months of our sorrow, notice instead the days when the sun peeks out of the clouds of our grief. Pay attention
to the times when you aren’t consumed with grief. Pat yourself on the back when you can step back into your ordinary life and socialize or work and enjoy some aspect of your life.

The amount of time we spend in pain is no gift to our dead. If you died would you want your loved ones to be immobilized with grief for months or years? Remember there is no right amount of time for grieving. Remember too that you do not honor your lost loved one with your sorrow but rather by living a good life in their honor.

  • Judy Tatelbaum, MSW, LCSW, is a psychotherapist, public speaker, and author. October 2022 Edition of the Journeys Bereavement Newsletter

We want answers

We want answers

When a tragic event or situation thrusts itself into our lives, a typical human response is to seek answers or explanations. When did it occur? Where did it occur? How did it occur? And above all, Why did it occur? We ask questions like these, even when we know that the event or situation may not be capable of being explained.

Consider just a few examples. A baby is born with a condition that is incompatible with life. A middle-aged woman who never smoked is diagnosed with lung cancer. An older man dies a partic­ularly painful death. In each of these examples and many others, those who are attached to the individual in question and sometimes the individual himself or herself often ask: Why did this happen? We seek for answers because humans are accus­tomed to believe that there are patterns in the lives we live, that there always are reasons to explain the events we encounter.

We particularly seek answers when a death or other significant loss occurs suddenly. As we emerge from our initial shock, we make efforts to find a framework through which we can make the event understandable. The first answers we propose are not always very satis­factory in the long run. We are told that a baby was born with a condition that is incompatible with life because of some genetic abnormality in utero or because the older man developed a condition that is associated with pain that is difficult to treat. Okay, why cannot modern medi­cal interventions respond to them in helpful ways?

When we press for one causal explanation after an­other, we may eventually find that there is no ultimate account that truly explains or throws light on what is happening in either of these cases. Some people simply give up the search for answers at that point. Others turn to faith, affirming that even if they don’t understand why such bad things happen, it is their conviction that these events are all part of a grand plan, even if the details of that plan are beyond us.

So perhaps in the end, our search does not always produce answers to explain why some events occur that challenge our conviction that the world in which we live is a good place. Even though our questions do not always produce answers that are ultimately satisfying, it may be that we need to find ways to trust that life is worth living whether or not we can fully explain why.

 

  • Charles A. Corr, PhD, formerly chaired the International Work Group on Death, Dying, and Bereavement and is recipient of the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Death Education and Counseling. October 2022 edition of Journeys, a newsletter to help in bereavement.

The Final Days – what caregivers and relatives can expect

The Final Days – what caregivers and relatives can expect
Woman holding senior woman’s hand on bed

Article from Cancer Research UK

What happens in the last days of life is different for everyone. But it can help caregivers and relatives to know a little about what to expect. 

Common concerns

Knowing that you or a loved one is close to dying can be very difficult. The information on this page is for your carers, relatives and friends. They often worry that they won’t be able to cope or know what to do.

It is very difficult to give exact details. But we can give you some general information about what might happen and what you can do to support your loved one through their dying process.

Letting go

Even if the physical body is ready to shut down, some dying people might resist death. They might still have issues they want to resolve or relationships they want to put right.

It is important to understand these things. Let your loved one know that you’re there for them and will help them with any of these issues. Allow them to share any memories or feelings they have.

Reassure them that it is all right to let go and die whenever they are ready. Some people will hold on until they have heard these words from the people they love. So letting them go can be one of the most important and loving things you can do for them.

Physical changes

The body begins its natural process of slowing down all its functions. How long this takes varies from person to person. It might take hours or days.

The dying person will feel weak and sleep a lot. When death is very near, you might notice some physical changes such as changes in breathing, loss of bladder and bowel control and unconsciousness.

It can be emotionally very difficult to watch someone go through these physical changes. But they are part of a natural dying process. They don’t mean that the person is uncomfortable or in distress.

The doctors and nurses looking after the person will regularly check for these changes. They will do all they can to make your relative or friend as comfortable as possible during their death.

If you are looking after someone at home while they are dying, you should have support from a specialist community nurse, district nurses and the GP. They can answer your questions and help make home nursing easier for you.

Sleepiness and difficulty waking (semi consciousness)

People who are dying often sleep a lot. They might not respond when you try to wake them. But this doesn’t mean they can’t hear you. Hearing may be one of the last senses to be lost.

So it is important not to stop talking to them and comforting them. You can sit close to them and hold their hand.

It is important not to say anything you wouldn’t want them to hear. It’s also a good idea to tell them when you go into or leave their room.

Difficulty swallowing or not wanting to eat or drink at all

There will come a time when the dying person won’t want to eat or drink anything. It is important not to try and force them to eat or drink. This will make them uncomfortable.

If they are still awake, you can give them small pieces of ice to suck or sips of fluid. This will keep their mouth moist. You can put lip balm on their lips to help stop them from getting dry and sore.

Even if they can’t take anything into their mouth, you can moisten their lips and mouth every 1 to 2 hours. Use aqueous cream for the lips.  A water-based saliva replacement gel can help with dry lips and a dry mouth. Your GP or district nurse can provide this.

Loss of bladder and bowel control

The dying person might lose control of their bladder and bowel. This happens because the muscles in these areas relax and don’t work as they did. This can be distressing to see and you might worry that they may feel embarrassed. The nursing staff will do all they can to protect the bed and keep your relative or friend as clean and comfortable as possible.

If you are caring for the person at home, the district nurses and specialist nurses can arrange for you to have protective sheets or pads for the bed. They might also be able to arrange a laundry service for you, if necessary. As people become very close to death and are not eating or drinking, the amount of urine and stools they produce gets less and less.

Restless movements (as though in pain)

Many people who are dying, and the people around them, worry that they will be in pain. Some people don’t have pain. But if a person is in pain, it can usually be well controlled, and people can be kept very comfortable. The doctors and nurses looking after the dying person will do all they can.

Sometimes restlessness is a sign of being in pain. It’s important to tell the doctors and nurses if the dying person can’t communicate very well and you think they are in pain. The medical staff will want to know so that they can plan the best way to control the pain.

Changes in breathing

When someone is dying, their breathing often changes. It might get noisy and irregular.

There may be times when they stop breathing for a few seconds. This is called Cheyne Stoke (pronounced chain stoke) breathing. They may breathe with their mouth open and use their chest muscles to help them catch a breath.

It can help to raise the head of the bed with pillows or cushions. Just sitting with them, speaking gently and holding their hand can be very reassuring.

A doctor or nurse might suggest giving a small dose of morphine if the person has difficulty breathing, even if they are not otherwise in pain. Morphine can help to make breathing easier.

Noisy breathing

You may hear gurgling or rattling sounds as the dying person takes each breath. This is coming from their chest or the back of their throat.

It happens because there is a build up of mucus and saliva and they don’t have a strong enough cough reflex to cough it up. Raising their head and turning it to the side can help gravity to drain the secretions.

Let the medical team know if your loved one has noisy breathing like this. They can sometimes use certain drugs to help dry up these secretions.

Sometimes a nurse or doctor can suck the fluid out through a thin tube put down into the person’s windpipe, but this is not usually needed.

Hearing the gurgling sounds can be very upsetting, but they don’t usually seem to cause distress to the dying person.

Cold feet, hands, arms and legs

The dying person’s face, hands, arms, feet and legs often become very cool to touch. Their skin might also become pale and look blotchy or mottled.

This happens because there is less blood circulation to these body parts. Keep them warm with blankets, but don’t use an electric blanket as this could become too uncomfortable.

Thick socks can help to keep their feet warm. Don’t overheat the room, as this can make it stuffy. Just keep it at a comfortable temperature.

Confusion and disorientation

You might hear your loved one say things that make no sense. They may not know what day it is or may not seem to know who you are. They could even say things that are totally out of character. For example, they might shout at you or physically push you away. This can be very hurtful and upsetting.

But try to understand that they don’t mean it. They are not aware that they are doing these things. It happens partly because of the chemical changes going on inside their body.

Complete loss of consciousness

At the end of life, the body’s chemical balance completely changes. The dying person then slips into unconsciousness. This is usually right towards the end, maybe only a few hours or days before death.

The person’s breathing becomes irregular and may become noisy. You won’t be able to wake them at all. Their breathing will stay irregular for some time and will stop at some point.

Emotional and spiritual changes

Everyone will feel different emotions when they are dying. A lot depends on:

  • the type of person they are
  • their age
  • how much support they have
  • their religious and spiritual beliefs
  • the experiences they have had in life

Someone dying in their 20s is likely to feel very differently from someone who is 80. And someone leaving behind young children will have different worries from someone whose children are grown up and can take care of themselves.

They might begin to let go as death gets closer and seem more at peace with things. Others might become very anxious, fearful or angry. Some people could appear to withdraw, even from the people they love and care about. But this doesn’t mean that they don’t care anymore.

These events are all very normal and are a natural part of dying.

Unfinished business

Before the final stages of death, the dying person might talk about wanting to complete any unfinished business. This could mean:

  • sorting out any problems with personal relationships – or deciding not to
  • visiting certain places
  • buying gifts for people
  • sorting out personal belongings and giving special things away to family and friends
  • getting their will and financial business in order
  • seeing a religious leader

How you might feel

You are likely to feel some very strong emotions when your relative or friend is dying. You might feel that you want to try and change what is happening. All you can do is give them a lot of support and comfort during this difficult time.

You might need support and help yourself, when someone close to you is dying. It could help to speak to:

  • the doctor or nurses on the ward
  • a religious leader
  • a counsellor
  • close friends and relatives

Try not to worry that you are going to do something wrong. Being with your loved one and letting them know you love and care for them is the most important thing.

Finding peace after my terminal cancer diagnosis

Finding peace after my terminal cancer diagnosis

Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer or told your disease is terminal, there’s always a place for hope. I truly believe I wouldn’t have made it this far if that wasn’t true.

In 2001, I was diagnosed with a very rare extra skeletal osteosarcoma that had spread to my left kidney. Serious odds were stacked against me, but I pulled through. Unfortunately, sarcoma turned out to be just the beginning of my care at MD Anderson; I’ve since been treated for major side effectsmelanoma, and now, stage IV colorectal cancer.

At the end of 2015, I learned that my body wasn’t responding to the treatment, and it was time to focus on improving the quality of my life instead of trying to prolong it.

Making that shift seemed like an impossible task, especially after all that I’d already overcome. Thankfully, I didn’t have to figure it out alone. Dr. Ali HaiderDr. Suresh Reddy, Diana Guzman Gutierrez and the rest of palliative care team at MD Anderson’s Supportive Care Center have been by my side, helping me cope with the emotional and physical pain that accompanies this life-altering disease.

Accepting my terminal cancer diagnosis

At first, I didn’t think I could ever achieve peace or happiness. I was so afraid of dying that it had consumed my psyche and blinded me from seeing anything else in my life. I also didn’t want to break the news to my family, whom, up until that point, I’d protected from the details of my diagnosis.

During counseling, we had many conversations about living with a terminal diagnosis and finding joy in the days I have left. I learned how to appreciate all the richness that still exists in my life and use the time I have to enjoy my family instead of pushing them away.

Embracing my loved ones and communicating openly with them helped us all eventually accept the situation, and that has turned out to be another source of emotional healing for me. None of us have forsaken hope on our ability to be happy and at peace. That is a blessing on its own.

Making my last chapter count

At some point, I also realized that this is another chapter in my life and a whole bunch of new experiences and memories could be made in it. That’s certainly been the case.

I took Dr. Reddy’s advice and reached out to my friends, so now people from all over the country are coming to visit. We talk about everything under the sun, and we have a great time. In fact, many who thought they were coming to say goodbye were quite surprised that wasn’t my mindset.

This also has been an opportunity to rekindle my spirituality. I had some gut-wrenching intellectual discussions with one of MD Anderson’s chaplains, and that helped me reprioritize what I want to accomplish in my remaining life. I now refuse to waste any time harboring anger toward anyone or anything — for any reason. Instead, I use that energy to pray for people I love and for things I want.

On the toughest days, I resort to reading because it removes me from the stress of thinking about everything. Yet no matter how lousy I feel, I always take the time to say, “Hi,” and smile at everyone I encounter. Doing so lifts my spirits and has led me to new friendships and experiences, such as serving in an advisory role to a support group organization that I once belonged to.

View life through a different lens

Over the last year and half, I have been able to see life from a new perspective. I’ve learned that “quality of life” are more than words; they’re a tangible strategy that I can hold onto and guide me in those moments when peace seems to elude me.

The truth is, we all have a choice: wallow in self-pity – and it would be justified – and remain miserable, or get out of the mindset of dying and focus on living. I can tell you right now: choosing the latter is so much better. So travel if you can, appreciate your loved ones, make memories, enjoy your hobbies and smile. Don’t give up hope or any of the things that made you happy before you got sick. You’re still living. Choose to celebrate that.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-855-812-4047.

Grieving: Facing Illness, Death, and Other Losses

Grieving: Facing Illness, Death, and Other Losses

Grief is a person’s normal, healthy response to a loss. It describes the emotions you feel when you lose someone or something important to you. People grieve for many different reasons, including:

  • Death of a loved one, including pets
  • Divorce or changes in a relationship, including friendships
  • Changes in your health or the health of a loved one
  • Losing a job or changes in financial security
  • Changes in your way of life, such as during retirement or when moving to a new place

The loss that triggers grief isn’t always physical. You can experience grief if you or a loved one are diagnosed with a major disease or face a serious illness. You may grieve plans you had made, or the ways life will change.

Grief is different for everyone. It can include many emotional and physical symptoms, including:

  • Feelings: Anger, anxiety, blame, confusion, denial, depression, fear, guilt, irritability, loneliness, numbness, relief, sadness, shock, or yearning
  • Thoughts: Confusion, difficulty concentrating, disbelief, hallucinations, or preoccupation with what was lost
  • Physical sensations: Dizziness, fast heartbeat, fatigue, headaches, hyperventilating, nausea or upset stomach, shortness of breath, tightness or heaviness in the throat or chest, or weight loss or gain
  • Behaviors: Crying spells, excessive activity, irritability or aggression, loss of energy, loss of interest in enjoyable activities, restlessness, or trouble falling or staying asleep

Grief is sometimes described as a process of 5 stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

These reactions to loss are normal. However, not everyone who is grieving experiences all of them, and not everyone experiences them in the same order. It is common to cycle back through some of these reactions, stages, and symptoms more than once.

Path to improved well being

There is no “right” way to grieve. Everyone is different. Give yourself time to experience your loss in your own way. At the same time, remember to take care of yourself:

  • Feel your loss. Allow yourself to cry, to feel numb, to be angry, or to feel however you’re feeling. It hurts, but it’s natural and normal.
  • Attend to your physical needs. Get enough sleep, eat a well-balanced diet, and exercise regularly.
  • Express your feelings. Talk about how you’re feeling with others. Or find a creative way to let your feelings out. This could include art, music, or writing in a journal.
  • Maintain a routine. Get back into your normal routine as soon as you can. Try to keep up with your daily tasks so you don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant that can affect your mood, so it could make you feel even more sad.
  • Avoid making major decisions. It takes time to adjust to a loss and get back to a normal state of mind. Making an impulsive decision as you’re grieving could add more stress at an already difficult time. Try to wait a year before making a big change, like moving or changing jobs.
  • Give yourself a break. Take breaks from grieving by participating in activities you enjoy. It’s okay to not feel sad all the time. It’s good for you to laugh.
  • Ask for help if you need it. You don’t have to struggle. Seek out friends, family, clergy, a counselor or therapist, or support groups. If your symptoms aren’t getting better or you feel like you need extra help, talk to your family doctor.

There is no set timetable for grief. You may start to feel better in 6 to 8 weeks, but the whole process can last from months to years. You may start to feel better in small ways. It will start to get a little easier to get up in the morning, or maybe you’ll have more energy. This is the time when you’ll begin to reorganize your life around your loss or without your loved one. During this time, it may feel like you go through a series of ups and downs. You may feel better one day, but worse the next. This is normal.

Over time, you’ll begin to find interest in other people and activities again. If you’ve lost a loved one, it’s normal to feel guilty or disloyal to them during this time. It’s also normal to relive some of your feelings of grief on birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, or other special occasions.

Things to consider

While it’s normal to feel sad after a loss, the feelings associated with grief should be temporary. Sometimes the feelings last longer, or you may have trouble dealing with your emotions. When this happens, grief can turn into depression. The symptoms of grief and depression are similar. Signs that you could be depressed include:

  • Not feeling any better as time passes
  • Having ongoing difficulty with eating or sleeping
  • Feelings disrupting your daily life
  • Relying on drugs or alcohol to cope
  • Thinking about hurting yourself or others

If you feel like you’re having trouble dealing with your emotions, ask for help. Your family doctor can help you treat your depression so you can start to feel better. He or she can also help you figure out what other kind of support you need. This could include a support group, individual therapy, or medicine.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Is what I’m experiencing normal?
  • Could I be depressed?
  • Should I go to a counselor or therapist?
  • How long will it be until I feel better?
  • Would medicine help me feel better?

Resources

American Society of Clinical Oncology: Understanding Grief and Loss

U.S. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus: Grief

Power of Attorney’s

Power of Attorney’s

Establishing advance directives regarding future health care decisions can ensure that a person’s wishes are met and can also relieve families from having to make difficult decisions at a time of great stress. The Missouri Bar has developed and makes available as a public service a “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Health Care Directive” for use by the general public. This form may be downloaded and/or photocopied as needed. There is no copyright on this publication.

There are many different types of legal documents that can help you plan how your affairs will be handled in the future. Many of these documents have names that sound alike, so make sure you are getting the documents you want. Also, State laws vary, so find out about the rules, requirements, and forms used in your State.

Wills and trusts let you name the person you want your money and property to go to after you die.

Advance directives let you make arrangements for your care if you become sick. Two common types of advance directives are:

  • living will gives you a say in your health care if you become too sick to make your wishes known. In a living will, you can state what kind of care you do or don’t want. This can make it easier for family members to make tough healthcare decisions for you.
  • durable power of attorney for health care lets you name the person you want to make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself. Make sure the person you name is willing to make those decisions for you.

For legal matters, there are ways to give someone you trust the power to act in your place.

  • general power of attorney lets you give someone else the authority to act on your behalf, but this power will end if you are unable to make your own decisions.
  • durable power of attorney allows you to name someone to act on your behalf for any legal task, but it stays in place if you become unable to make your own decisions.

Mourning the death of an adult child

Mourning the death of an adult child

We never expect our children to predecease us. So the death of a child-whether at five or fifty-is an inevitably complicating loss. In fact, losing an adult child can be especially problematic for many reasons.

With sympathy and support focused on other survivors, such as a spouse or children, parents may feel a lack of support. Others may not recognize the powerful bond that exists between parent and child once that child is an adult. The grief of the parents then can be disenfranchised­unacknowledged and unrecognized by others. One mother whose 55-year-old son died remarked: “Everyone asks how his wife and kids are doing-few ask how I am doing.”

There may be other losses as well when an adult child dies. The parent may lose a critical source of support in their own lives, someone on whom they depended emo­tionally, physically, or financially. More­over this loss may occur as they are aging themselves and may deeply depend on the support of their child.

And the loss of an adult child may occur at an age when an older adult is experienc­ing other losses in their lives such as parents, siblings, or even a spouse. The death of a child is an “out-of-order” death as parents usually die before their child. Surviving parents may feel a sense of survivor guilt, questioning why their child died and have a sense of injustice that challenges spiritual beliefs.
There may be other secondary losses when an adult child dies as well. For ex­ample, the older parent’s contact with their grandchildren may change. In some cases it may diminish while in others the parent may take on new responsibilities in assisting the family. Activities where the older parent interacted with their child’s in-laws and friends may not occur as often-or even not at all.

Other factors can complicate grief as well. Parents may feel a lack of control that complicates the loss. Though it is their child, they may have little or no control over the funeral or burial.
How, then, can parents cope with such a loss? How can others offer support? First, it is critical to validate that grief, to recognize that the death of a child, regardless of age or circum­;tances, is always a horrendous event. Support is critical. There may be value in seeking counseling or joining a support group. fhe Compassionate Friends, for example, is a support group for oarents who are grieving the death of a child-no matter what :he child’s age.

There are other things that may be supportive. For example, if the parent was dissatisfied with the funeral, a parent may want to gather his or her own friends for a ritual. Jean did that. Since her daughter’s funeral was far away, she decided to have a memo­rial service so her friends could attend. The pain associated with the death of your adult child is likely felt by many who had close relationships. A spouse, part­ner, siblings, children and friends may all be deeply bereaved. If possible, share this loss and grieve with them.

– Kenneth J. Doka, PhD, MDiv, is Sr. Vice President, Grief Programs, HFA and recipient of the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Death Education and Counseling. An excerpt from the July 2022 Journeys Bereavement Newsletter.