Summary: We need to yield productively to the grief process, taking care of ourselves as we do it (from Therese Rando in her book, “How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies", pgs. 252-256)
Here’s a story from a telemarketer: “The other day I called a house and a real nice lady answered the phone, she was really helpful and friendly, she was the type of lady that helps a telemarketer get through a long day. After some pleasantries I asked if Mr. Smith was in, “I’m sorry”, she answered “I’m afraid he doesn’t live here anymore.” Now that was a real disappointment being that she was a nice lady and all, but I took it all in a stride, “I’m sorry to hear that ma’am. Do you happen to have his new number.” “Sure thing!” The woman cheerfully replied, listing off his new number. I hung up the phone and quickly called the new number and was surprised to hear a recording. “Thank you for calling Green Acres Cemetery…” Gathered from: http://www.f150forum.com/f15/got-joke-post-221708/index45/
When I was preaching, an older couple came to the church. I visited with this delightful couple. They were from Cincinnati. They had moved out to a farm near the church and had animals all over. Norman told me that his wife Joan had Alzheimer's. They wanted to continue to attend their church in Cincinnati but Norman knew that as things got more difficult for his wife, they would be attending our church more and more. They did come to the church about once a month and then not much at all. From time to time I would call them on the telephone to see how they were doing. On several occasions, Joan would answer the phone and then after a few minutes of conversation, would go into the bedroom and wake up Norman. I would ask Norman how he was, he would say tired, and then give the phone back to Joan. Turns out that Norman was staying up at all hours with Joan. Norman would take care of the animals, take care of Joan and everything else. On more than one occasion, I told Norman that it would be good to have some people from the church to sit with Joan while Norman got some sleep or got out to do something else. Oh, no, Norman could take care of it all. One time, several months went by and I did not see them. I called them on the telephone. Joan answered the phone and said something dreadful had happened. Norman had died. I asked Joan if there was anyone else at the house and Joan gave the phone to her son. Yes, he confirmed that Norman had died. A few weeks after this Joan came to the church with her daughter in law. After the service, Joan came up to me in tears and said that the farm with all of her beloved animals was to be sold and she would have to go into a nursing home. She loved her animals and she loved her farm but all of it would have to be sold. Oh, Norman, it may not have changed anything, but I can’t help but think that if he would have accepted more help, how things might have ended differently!
Much of the same advice and help that caregivers need in caregiving, is the same advice and help that caregivers need when their loved one dies. When the loved one dies, there is a sense of relief, but grief comes and consumes a caregiver. As a griever, we need to appreciate the fact that grief is work. It requires both physical and emotional energy. It is no less strenuous a task that was the caregiving. The term “grief work” was coined by psychiatrist Erich Lindemann in 1944 to describe the tasks and processes that we go through in grief. The term shows that grief is something we must work at actively if we are to deal with grief in a healthy fashion. It demands much more than merely passively experiencing our reactions to loss: we must actively do things and undertake specific courses of thought and action to help us in our grief.