As a bereavement specialist at Hospice of the Red River Valley, I facilitate support groups. The support groups vary from our teen/kid groups, to general grief groups, to grief groups for widows. As a facilitator, I am always in awe of the honesty and emotion shared by those who attend the groups.
A topic of great interest to me is when a group discusses “hospice death” versus “sudden death.” Each loss brings up so many of the same emotions and feelings, but unique issues at the same time. Interestingly, each griever feels one type of loss is more difficult than the other, but also voice they cannot imagine how difficult the other is.
Many losses fall into the category of sudden death: accidents, homicide, suicide, miscarriage, natural disaster, sudden illness and other similar circumstance. When I think of these losses, feelings of shock and disbelief automatically come to mind. I don’t think we are ever prepared for death, but a sudden death leaves a person feeling even more vulnerable and unsure. When we are unprepared for a death, we are left with the need to try to make sense of it. Individuals may even look back on the days prior to the death to look for clues that could have given them an idea of what was to come.
Sudden death losses share several similar feelings, such as trying to make sense of the loss, shock, guilt, blame, anxiety and helplessness, to name a few. While dealing with these losses, people may also experience a level of uncertainty, or “what now.” There may be legal ramifications and media attention surrounding the death’s circumstances, which can delay the ability to grieve. The grieving/healing process can be very similar for both “sudden deaths” and “hospice deaths,” because a loss is a loss. It is important to deal with a sudden loss very similarly to how one would deal with an expected loss.
Many options are available to help with the grief process, including support groups, private counseling, faith communities, school, friends and family. Some, however, will learn they may need to take this journey alone. Grief, like each loss, is so different for each person; no two people will choose the same path. You will need to find what works best for you and your loved ones.
Though sudden loss brings many difficulties, there is hope. It is my wish you will find the help you need where ever you can find it, but know that Hospice of the Red River Valley grief support services are available to all, not just families who had loved ones on hospice care, to help you on this journey.
Hospice of the Red River Valley offers a number of support groups in several communities. Please visit our calendar for dates, locations and times.
Additionally, this spring Youth Journeys will be offered on April 27, 2013, in Fargo. Youth Journeys is a day filled with activities and support for young people, ages 6 to 18, who have had someone they love die. A portion of the day includes parent/guardian participation. Journeying Through Grief, a four week class for newly grieving adults, will be held on Mondays in April in Fargo. To register for Youth Journeys or Journeying Through Grief, contact Hospice of the Red River Valley’s bereavement department at 701-356-1500 or 800-237-4629.
In June, Hospice of the Red River Valley’s Journeying Home Spring Conference will also focus on coping with grief.
Kriston Wenzel, LSW, is a bereavement specialist with Hospice of the Red River Valley.