LRH Hospice Helps Hospice Patients and Their Families Cope with the Grief Process
At some point nearly every person is confronted with grief in one way or another. According to Lakes Regional Healthcare (LRH) Hospice Social Worker Jed Winkel, “People experience grief when they experience a loss in their life. That loss can occur in a number of ways, from the death of a loved one to a major life change, such as moving to a nursing care facility, getting a divorce, or dealing with the ramifications of a severe illness or injury.”
As LRH Hospice’s social worker, Winkel is experienced in helping others go through the grief process. He offers bereavement counseling to hospice patients and their families for up to 13 months after the patient’s death. He said, “I offer individual counseling either in person or over the phone depending on the individual’s comfort level. Honestly, everyone on the hospice team acts as individual counselors. For example, besides offering emotional support for the patient and their families, we offer spiritual support by working with their pastor. If they don’t have a pastor, we have a hospice chaplain who can provide spiritual support. We also provide information to help families understand grief. An annual memorial service that gives families the opportunity to get together with others who have experienced similar losses and where we honor the deceased is held every December.”
In his work helping hospice patients and families cope with loss, Winkel is familiar with information that others coping with loss may find beneficial. He said there are five stages most people experience when they are grieving and working through them is essential to heal completely from a loss. In general, most people do not go through the stages in any order, and they may revisit each stage several times throughout the healing process. Winkel said, “There are no set rules to grief, it is an individual process people work through on their own terms.”
The first stage of grief is denial. In the case of a death of a loved one, the grieving person does not cry, nor do they accept or even acknowledge the loss.
The second stage is anger. At this point, feelings of wanting to fight back occur.
The third stage of grief is bargaining. This often takes place before the loss itself. Actions include attempting to make deals with God to stop or change the loss. Begging, wishing, and praying for them to stay or come back are common.
The fourth stage is depression, which is an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, frustration, bitterness, and self-pity. It includes mourning for the person as well as the hopes and plans for the future. Feelings of a lack of control, numbness, and thoughts of suicide are all indicative of depression.
The fifth stage of grief is acceptance, which occurs when realization of the loss has occurred and that life will go on. Acceptance can mean realizing a loved one has died and that it wasn’t their fault, and that they did not leave on purpose. In either case, acceptance occurs when the goals turn toward personal growth and fond memories of the loved one are the focus.
Winkel says that grief is never an easy or enjoyable process, but there are ways to better cope with loss. Caring for yourself physically, relying on your natural support systems, and finding a way to express your feelings help ease the pain of loss. Caring for yourself physically includes exercising, eating well, and sleeping well, which all make a positive difference in your emotional state. Natural support systems include talking to and socializing with friends, family, and church contacts. Expression of feelings can vary by individual, and include journaling, painting, crying, attending support groups, and receiving counseling. Winkel also said, “If you’re suffering from severe depression or anxiety, you should talk to your doctor to discuss possible treatment options from a medical standpoint.”