On Death and Grief:
Pet Peeves and A Protest Unfinished
Rea L. Ginsberg, LCSW-C, ACSW, BCD
This is a time of enormous social and technological transition. It isn't easy and it isn't quick to settle. It is filled with disorder, conflict, and exhaustion. It is reminiscent of the traditional 'Chinese' proverb, a curse: "May you live in interesting times." We live in a rapidly shifting environment. New ideas are messy and confusing.
Change and transformation are also sorely needed in society’s views of death and mourning. Difficult to do, tangled and tortuous. Our long, incomplete inventory of alternative facts (below) attests to it. The dying and their families will benefit as we gain greater openness and understanding of attitudes toward death, dying, and bereavement.
Healthcare is rooted in ethics - in certain core values, principles, and standards; for example, integrity, compassion, worth and dignity of the individual, autonomy and self-determination, confidentiality and privacy, the importance of interpersonal relationships, non-discrimination, informed decision-making, social justice, knowledge of - and respect for - cultural and individual diversity.
Ethics are basic principles that govern right conduct. They influence behavior and attitudes. They stabilize the rocky transitional path.
Healthcare professionals, with their sturdy ethical roots, can help to encourage, promote, and advocate for change. Hope for change. Hope is not a passive desire. Hope requires action. Act to advance the transformation. Draw energy from the challenge. Together we win. That, too, is ethical. It is the ethics of responsibility for mending a ruptured nation as well as the Self, the "We" in the "me."
The LIST so far:
(Once upon a time, Will Rogers told us, "It’s not what you don’t know that scares me; it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”)
Time heals all wounds.
There is such a thing as “closure.”
There is no such thing as "real" grief for the loss of body parts and functions, like a leg or a breast or a remembering mind.
Animals do not grieve.
Grief symptoms last only 2 weeks (DSM-5, no bereavement exclusion).
Grief will end at some finite point.
Grief is a mental illness.
Grief is a major mental disorder.
Grief is a Major Depressive Disorder (DSM-5).
It is proper to tell a mourner, "Don't worry, you'll be fine," and then attempt to distract by changing the subject.
It is acceptable to tell a mourner, "Get over it. Move on."
It is comforting to grieving people if we say, “I know how you feel.”
The mourner has a mental disorder if he talks to a photo of a loved one who is dead.
Grief in childhood is the same as grief in adulthood; children are small adults.
“Hospice” can be defined by politicians and medical/health insurance companies (e.g., 6 months or less to live).
Palliative care is appropriate only at the end of life.
Everyone wants to die at home.
Anticipatory grief is a simple extension of post-loss grief, the early onset of "normal" grief.
If anticipatory grief is managed properly, there will be nothing for the survivor to regret after the loved one’s death.
Anger means love is dead.
Anger at the dead is unacceptable and shameful.
Forgiveness is a one-time affair: give it, get it, and it's finished.
Fear of death can be eliminated with proper mental attitude.
Death of the body means death of the relationship.
Community is nice but unnecessary; we do not need others. We can go it alone.
Advance care planning is a waste of time.
We cannot predict the future of our death&dying in any way.
End of life is a topic that would needlessly scare the patient and should not be discussed.
Sometimes or often, the patient should not even be informed of a diagnosis that includes probable impending death. The information would be depressing and might deter healing.
Children should not attend funerals.
"Broken" is an accurate and useful term in describing the mourner.
Denial is the best way to manage bereavement.
Spirituality is the answer to grief relief.
"Meaning" is the answer to relief from grief pain.
Mindfulness + exercise are the pathway to restoring happiness.
There is only one answer to relief from grieving.
Suffering makes us stronger.
Positive Psychology has no place in mourning.
Grief healing restores life to its previous level and balance.
Assisted dying (alternately named Physician Assisted Suicide, or PAS) is wrong, unjustified, and unethical.
Physician assisted dying goes against the doctors' pledge: "First, do no harm," long presumed to be part of the Hippocratic Oath.
A 3-hour seminar on "cultural and individual diversity" adequately prepares healthcare workers to respect, understand, and treat myriad dying patients who come from diverse cultural backgrounds.
It is unprofessional and inappropriate for medical care providers to feel love for their patients or to cry with or about them.
More. To each his own. You name it. Then tame it -- act to promote change. It will improve empathic connectedness.
Ω - Above all, learn to listen with full, rapt attention.
Ω - Avoid making assumptions about others' needs.
Ω - Seek strength, resilience, and mental wellness instead of illness.
Ω - Community matters. Help to find it. Stronger together; together we win.
Ω - Talk about It - experiences with dying and death, past and present.
Ω - Tell life Stories. They confirm individual and group identity.
Ω - That is self-validation.
Ω - The storytelling feels good, improves mood, enhances ability to cope with death and grief.
Ω - Grieving is a process. It is not a race-to-the-finish. NO timelines apply.
Ω - Many methods yield healing and Hope. Explore the many; hold those that help.
Ω - Loss is life-altering. Coping leads to a new normal, no going back.
Ω - That is Growth, and that is the Prize for grief work going well.
* * * *
* * * *
I did then what I knew how to do.
Now that I know better, I will do better.
~~ Maya Angelou
* * * *