As we enter into the holiday season, I’ve invited my dear friend, Gabby Daikon, to share her experience with grief after losing her mother as a young adult. I met Gabby about a year ago through her grief journals and later joined her for virtual Yoga Nidra and “bad bitch” meditations. In a year that has been unpredictable, these practices have brought me comfort, and I hope her words will be a comfort to you.
Grief is all-consuming and yet different for every individual.
For me it felt like a fog, a fog that I knew was there but I couldn’t get to the other side of it. I hear that is what Seattle is like, I guess grief is like Seattle. I have never been but I hear it is beautiful but always cloudy. I think grief is similar in that it feels constantly dreary but also has a weird comfort and connection to the true essence of life. I am sorry if you live in Seattle and that offended you. I truthfully have no idea what Seattle is like.
Grief is a journey
My grief journey has been a bumpy ride, to say the least. I have struggled tremendously, found support, struggled again, learned to surrender and the ride keeps on going. I found that my biggest mistake was pretending to be OK. I held all of the burdens of my losses inside of myself and made myself sick. Truly sick.
Ride the waves
We run and hide from any negative emotions, but the more we tense and grip, the harder they hit. Instead, float on the tides. Let your emotions move you around without crashing over you; brutally. Wade into the fears, float with them, don’t judge yourself, and usually, you can come out without drowning.
My true healing began when I learned how to surrender to the pain, the grief, and all of the parts that make this life. It is so sad that grief is such a large part of life and yet rarely spoken about. I believe that when we begin to speak about it we can all heal and find the beauty in our journey.
Yoga Nidra provides a moment of reprieve
I found Yoga Nidra at a time when I truly needed it. I felt this constant pain of anxiety because I had this undercurrent of grief that I just could not truly access. Yoga Nidra was the first time I felt at peace for 45 minutes. I am not saying it healed me completely but it gave me a moment of reprieve and sometimes when we are deep in the grief journey that is all we can ask for. A moment of reprieve.
Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation
Yoga Nidra gives us the opportunity to float with the currents. During Yoga Nidra there are no moving postures, simply lie wherever you feel comfortable and allow yourself to feel supported. It is a guided meditation – you are not left alone with your thoughts, you are supported by the meditation. During this time you may be having trouble feeling rested, Yoga Nidra is equivalent to 3 ½ hours of deep REM sleep to the body. It also helps move energy through the subconscious mind and welcome what the mind needs to welcome without the tension and anxiety attached to it.
Yoga Nidra makes you an observer of the mind, an observer of grief, being able to welcome it without having it drown you. I invite you to just take a few deep breaths, allow what comes to come, and know that you can handle it.
Grief is personal
There are scientific benefits that I can list but the truth is that grief is not some scientific formula, we just have to do what we can to get through and for me, that was writing to my Mom and other loved ones when I truly needed her and Yoga Nidra. With the loss of a key family member there is so much more loss that people don’t speak about- like; the family dynamics, your personality, a self-identity, and so much more. So if you are deep in your grief all I can offer is my truest empathy and compassion because there are no magic words, it is just hard, and sometimes we just need people to understand how hard it is.
Use the promo code GALS to get a discount on one of Gabby’s services
Looking to reduce stress and anxiety? Improve your mental clarity? If so, consider adding Yoga Nidra to your wellness routine. Use the promo code “GALS” and you can get a discount on Gabby’s services.
Ten Holiday Traditions to Consider when a loved one dies
When your family adds members, like a new baby or newlywed couple, the holidays can be more joyous than ever. Of course, the flip side of that is that when your family loses someone, the holiday season can become a painful reminder of their absence.
I am very fortunate to still have both of my parents around, and until recently, my husband did too. Doing the work that I do, I’m always cognizant that our loved ones won’t always be around. However, when my mother-in-law passed unexpectedly this year, it threw a lot of our plans into chaos.
We had holiday traditions that will be difficult to carry on, and so I’m thinking about how we can continue existing traditions while acknowledging our loss, or create new traditions that honor the time we enjoyed with her.
Here are a few options that I’ve come up with to explore this year, and as the years go on.
Go to their favorite places.
My mother-in-law, Lynn, had very eclectic tastes. She loved art museums, coffee shops, bookstores, and any place that had locally made crafts. She is the one who created my candle obsession through various gifts over the years. This year a couple of new places have opened in our neighborhood that I know she would have loved, as well as places that she and I went together that I will probably visit again.
Wear their favorite colors/styles.
Normally when we think of attending a funeral, we think of people wearing black. I’ll never forget reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston in high school, where the main character wears her husband’s favorite color when he dies. Although I had no clue the toll death can take at that time of my life, thought it was a lovely way to honor him and their relationship.
If you were fortunate to inherit some clothes from your loved one, the holidays may be a good time to take them out. Smell them. Do they still smell like your loved one who has died? Isn’t that wonderful to be able to smell them again?
My grandfather died while I was in law school. One of my favorite things that we did together was take walks. He took a walk every day and had a coat rack full of sweaters, coats, and flannel shirts for anyone who wanted to walk with him if the weather was cool. When he passed away, I was able to get a few of the cardigans from his hall tree. They no longer smell like him, but I can’t wear them without remembering all the walks we went on and the ways that those walks helped shape our family.
Make their favorite recipes or eat at their favorite restaurant.
My mother in law loved Chef’s Market in Goodlettsville. It’s where she chose for our rehearsal dinner, and where we got take out from almost every Christmas Eve. While we may skip Chef’s Market for the holidays this year, I’m going to suggest we start going there on her birthday each year.
Share stories about them. What was their favorite thing about the holidays?
Did they love going to the movies after opening presents? Were they a wonderful or horrible gift giver? The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to share memories that were made over the years.
Donate to their favorite nonprofit or help someone they loved.
Helping others is always a great way to think outside of yourself for a while. Maybe you set up a re-curring donation to a cause they cared about or find a few days to volunteer for an organization stuffing envelopes or making calls.
Even if you don’t have a lot of time or money, you can find a way to be helpful. If you use Amazon, you can make your purchases through their Amazon Smile website instead and they will donate a portion of your purchase to the charity of your choice. Kroger has a similar program that is tied to your Kroger Plus account.
Visit their grave, memorial, or a place they love. Don’t be afraid to talk to them. Give them an update on what has happened through the year.
I know this may seem silly to some people. But in all likelhood there were some things you shared with your deceased loved one that might not be as appreciated by anyone else. Maybe you heard a joke that you know would crack them up, or want to make sure they are caught up on the family goings-on. You can say things out loud, or just think them (like a prayer) but having a way to continue the relationship that was so important while they were living is so comforting.
Save a place for them at the table. Consider putting their picture at their place instead of a place setting.
Just because someone isn’t with us physically at the holidays, chances are that they had an impact on how you celebrate. Find physical space for your loved on in your holiday celebrations.
Read their favorite book out loud.
In Iceland there is a tradition of getting books as gifts on Christmas Eve. Then the family cozies up with their book and hot chocolate for an evening of reading. I think it’s a lovely tradition. Since Christmas Eve was the part of the holiday that we spent with my in-laws, I might suggest that we adjust this tradition to read her favorite book and drink tea instead. It’s Tolkien, so we won’t finish, but maybe we’ll put it back on the shelf until next year.
Look through photos of them and favorite memories.
Even though your loved one is no longer with you, hopefully they weren’t camera shy. Many families now create photo slide shows for memorial services, and the holidays might be a good time to pull that back up on your computer, go through the photos one by one, and talk about the events happening when the picture was taken. I bet you’ll learn a few things about your loved one, and get to share some things too!
10. Make a toast to their influence on your life, using their favorite drink.
Whether your loved one preferred champagne, eggnog, or Coca-Cola, the holidays seem like the perfect time to raise a glass in their honor. Toast to the immaterial things they left you. Did your son inherit their sense of humor? Your granddaughter has their love of science? They are a piece of you, so now is a great time to honor them.
The people we love don’t leave us when they pass away, and there’s no reason we should try to leave them behind during the most cherished parts of our lives.
For the month of November, we want to focus on caregivers. While family caregiving can be rewarding, it also takes a toll. Most family caregivers hope to add a professional service to their loved one’s support system, but figuring out how to do that is just one more thing to add to your already-full plate.
What types of care are there? Who provides these services? How much do they cost? What limits are there? How do I pick the right service for my family?
You’ve got the right questions, and Google is overwhelming. So we called in an expert. Our friend Perry Brown, President of our local Right at Home care team, was kind enough to provide us information about the types of care options available and the most common questions you may have. If you’d like to know more about Right at Home, we encourage you to check out their website here and sign up for their newsletter. If you are ready to talk to someone about in-home care, Perry and his team would be happy to help. You can reach them by phone at (615) 360-0006 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s Look at Types of Care You May Want to Consider
When an older loved one or adult with a disability needs caring support at home, it can feel daunting to know which professional care services are best. Who can help with bathing and meals? Is a registered nurse needed for wound care? Can hospice care happen at home?
The Global Coalition on Aging and the Home Care Association of America state that almost 70% of Americans who turn age 65 will need assistance at some point to care for themselves. These senior care industry leaders also report that “already 40% of adults aged 65+ need assistance with daily living activities.” The fast-growing care needs of the country’s increasingly older population can leave care recipients and their families confused over in-home care options. The complexity of nonmedical and medical services available also may jeopardize a loved one from getting the timely and attentive care they need.
To help simplify the professional in-home care choices, Lorraine Grote Johnson, Director of Care Quality at Right at Home, a leading in-home care agency, notes that it is important to understand the differences between home care and home healthcare. Grote Johnson, a registered nurse for more than 35 years in both hospital and home settings, gives the following overview of common care services available in the home.
In-home caregivers are the extra hand to provide personalized support to a loved one in their own familiar home surroundings. Home care can be part time, full time or live-in assistance ranging from light housekeeping and meal preparation to personal grooming and toileting. At-home caregivers can provide care services such as being a companion who helps write the grandchildren to driving the care client to medical appointments and to complete errands. Home care allows a loved one to stay safe and independent at home as long as possible. Grote Johnson points out that home care staff members are not legally allowed to take on skilled medical care such as dispensing medications and working with tube feedings. Most at-home caregiving services are covered through private pay.
Home healthcare is skilled nursing care that is prescribed and directed by a physician and supervised by a registered nurse. Home healthcare is suited for complex health issues that require a higher level of medical assistance, or when a loved one is recovering from an injury or recent illness. A professional skilled nursing team can accommodate a client’s numerous medical care situations such as monitoring vital signs, medication setup and management, dressing changes, and continence care.
“Generally, home healthcare is delivered by Medicare-certified companies and may include physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy,” Grote Johnson said. “A registered nurse makes a care plan and supervises a home health aide who helps a client with activities of daily living such as bathing and dressing. The RN does supervisory visits in the home at least once every two weeks.”
Medicare and other health service providers that pay for home healthcare determine the number and length of nurse visits to the home. Private pay skilled nursing care has no limit on in-home service hours. Specialized palliative care and hospice care also fit within the realm of home healthcare.
Palliative care is specialized support for people living with a serious illness or transitioning toward death. Palliative care focuses on pain relief, comfort and reduced stress for an ill loved one and balanced overall health for the patient and family members. Palliative care serves not only the dying but also those with chronic diseases such as cancer, congestive heart failure, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s. A specially trained palliative care team includes doctors, nurses, professional caregivers and other specialists who work together to improve the quality of life for the care client.
Originating in Europe during the Middle Ages, hospice, which is derived from the Latin word for “hospitality,” is care that aids the critically ill and dying with medical, emotional and spiritual support. Hospice or end-of-life care is a type of palliative care, but the ailing person is no longer seeking curative treatment. The aim of hospice care is to extend comfort, peace and dignity to individuals in the dying process. Hospice programs also support a patient’s family with counseling and bereavement care. Hospice teams of doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains and other caregivers provide care in patients’ homes or at a hospice center, hospital or in-patient care facility.
“Hospice typically serves a terminally ill person with a life expectancy of six months or less,” Grote Johnson explains. “In some cases, a hospice patient’s health improves to the point where the individual no longer needs the specialized care. Also, if a person starts to feel better, they may want to negate hospice and start receiving curative medical treatment again. At any point, a hospice client can change their mind about their care.”
Tips for Choosing At-Home Care
Because of the quickly expanding number of at-home services on the market today, Perry Brown, President Right at Home Nashville advises those in need of care and their families to consider the following tips for choosing at-home care:
Select services only from a professional, licensed agency. Make sure you see actual proof of certification and licensing for the agency.
Be certain that the caregiver who works with your loved one is insured and bonded.
Get a detailed care plan or treatment plan upfront. Ask about goals of the suggested services.
Review the caregiver’s qualifications, experience and amount of supervision on the job.
Discuss all financial costs and evaluate options for saving money on home care, including long-term care insurance, a reverse mortgage, Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits, etc. Reference Right at Home’s information on how to pay for home care.
For securing skilled nursing care and home healthcare, Grote Johnson offers additional suggestions. “Choose a company that knows and maintains federal and state regulations,” Grote Johnson advises. “Make sure the company does criminal background checks on their nurses and caregivers and verifies their licenses. Ask whether the nursing staff has gone through a thorough orientation and if they know infection control practices and what to do in emergencies. Also, make sure skilled nursing staff members have critical thinking skills and completed competency testing, and that home health nurses have the proper qualifications, because they are taking your loved one’s life into their hands in what could be life-or-death situations.”
Availability of qualified at-home services varies by locales across the country, so Brown recommends reviewing at-home agencies online, then visiting with the agencies in person. “Be sure to check references of the in-home agency candidates and their specific caregivers,” Brown explained. “Talk to others in the community who are familiar with the agencies and their reputations. In getting the best care possible for your loved one, every question and concern matters.” For additional information about choosing home care, home healthcare, palliative care or hospice care in your area, talk with local medical professionals for referrals, or contact the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, or use the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator.
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