low-angle photo of lightened candles

Honoring end of life

Talk of death is pretty prevalent these days.

At times, it even seems casual.

But maybe that’s what happens at this point in a world pandemic.

After all, when daily and total deaths are regularly tallied in the news by global, U.S., state and local categories, it’s easier to overlook the details of each individual and family impacted within those statistics.

When I worked in hospice, we were meticulous about honoring those who had died and supporting those who remained.

During our team meetings we talked together about each death that had occurred the prior week and gave the staff involved the chance to share and receive the support they needed.

The team chaplain provided a special place for remembering and honoring each patient who had died as part of our meeting.

And we always encouraged anyone who had been involved with that patient’s and family’s care to attend the patient’s memorial service—both to support the family and find closure for themselves.

In addition to working on home care teams, I also worked in two hospice houses.

One was only six beds, and the other much larger.

In both, we created special ways to be present for the dying, to honor each individual after they had died, and to provide the family with support.

Since I’ve had such profound experiences with those at end of life, it breaks my heart to see this sacred time treated as casually as it often seems in today’s headlines.

I know the logistics of dealing with isolation requirements in healthcare settings and the sheer volume of deaths occurring seemingly necessitates moving practicality to the top of the priority list.

However, in the midst of these extremes are lives that should be celebrated and honored, and grieving families who need prayers and support.

So, how can we achieve that?

How can we make sure those who have died are honored?

That each individual life is remembered and celebrated?

That each family receives the support they need?

One place to start is within our own circles of family and friends.

Where we pay attention to the needs of those who have lost loved ones from any cause.

Where we help them remember and honor and provide whatever support is needed.

And where we also reach out to those we may know who are dealing with death every day.

To the healthcare workers and others on the frontlines who are moving from one death to another.

Often standing in as family in today’s isolated environments.

Accumulating losses they can’t begin to comprehend.

Lacking the opportunity to pause within the rush of death—let alone find closure after the patients they’ve cared for have died.

When this is over, there are going to be a lot of people in need of help to address the emotional trauma endured during this season.

And the more we can find ways to provide support for each other now, the better we’ll be together in the journey ahead.

If you are grieving the death of a loved one—or know someone who is, here are a few resources that may help:

This article first appeared in the May 2, 2020 edition of The Empowered Traveler™ Newsletter.

Feature photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash.

Sue Montgomery is a Christian writer/content creator who's also been a hospice nurse, family caregiver, health coach, and professional organizer. Now she's helping Baby Boomers like herself embrace the Boomer Continuum™ of agile caregiving, graceful aging, and peaceful dying—with Christian faith and simplicity to focus on what matters most.
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