Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Palliative Sedation for the Terminally Ill

[Reviewed and updated August 23, 2022]

The December 26, 2009 edition of the New York Times carried a lengthy article describing the practice of palliative sedation, whereby strong sedative medications were used to provide comfort and relief to dying patients whose pain and suffering did not respond to standard interventions. Entitled Hard Choice for a Comfortable Death: Sedation, the article has generated several hundred reader comments.

Pallimed founder and palliative care physician Drew Rosielle, MD shares his reactions to the article here: NYT on Palliative Sedation.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Centering Corporation: A Non-Profit Grief Resource Center

Centering Corporation is an outstanding family-operated, non-profit bereavement resource center offering a vast assortment of materials covering topics from general grief, miscarriage, infant loss, loss of a family member, caring for the terminally ill, caring for and being with the bereaved, pet loss, divorce and much more. To order or to learn more about available resources, or to request a free catalog, visit the Centering Corporation Web site at http://www.centering.org/.

Continuing Education Offerings Online

Myths and Facts about Advance Care Planning: Dispelling the "Death Panels" Claim, with Jim Werth Jr, PhD, Wednesday, January 20, 2010, 1:00 - 2:30 pm EST (11:00 am - 12:30 pm MST)
Learn more about ADEC Webinars here

Bereavement Camps for Kids: Benefits and Challenges, with Kenneth Doka, PhD, Sherry Schachter, Angela Hamblen and Bonnie Carroll, Monday, February 1, 2010, 1:00 – 2:30 pm EST (11:00 am - 12:30 pm MST)
Learn more about HFA Webinars here

Grief After Suicide: How Does Suicide Change the Grieving Process? with John R. Jordan, PhD, FT, Wednesday, February 17, 2010, 1:00 - 2:30 pm EST (11:00 am - 12:30 pm MST)

Dying in the Contemporary U.S. - How Modern Medicine Impacts the Dying Experience, with Clint Moore, MDiv, PhD, FT, Wednesday, March 17, 2010, 1:00 - 2:30 pm EDT (10:00 - 11:30 am PDT)

Cultural Perspectives on Dying, Death and Grief, with Paul Rosenblatt, PhD, Wednesday, April 21, 2010, 1:00 – 2:30 pm EDT (10:00 - 11:30 am PDT)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

American Widow Project

The American Widow Project is a non-profit organization “dedicated to the new generation of those who have lost the heroes of yesterday, today and tomorrow, with an emphasis on healing through sharing stories, tears and laughter – Military Widow to Military Widow.”

Built to house ideas, stories, and advice, the site offers a multitude of resources to help with the lifetime of struggles that come along with being a military widow – including a free DVD describing the stories of six military widows (available by request and at no cost), a newsletter, and other events.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Christmas Wish for You and Those You Love

Every time a hand reaches out
to help another ~
that is Christmas.
Every time someone puts anger aside
and strives for understanding ~
that is Christmas.
Every time people
forget their differences
and realize their love for each other ~
that is Christmas.
May you know
the spirit of Christmas
which is Peace ~
the soul of Christmas
which is Hope ~
and the heart of Christmas
which is Love ~

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Breast Cancer Awareness: Pink Glove Dance

Employees at Providence St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Portland, Oregon put together this video to generate breast cancer awareness throughout their hospital system, in hopes of inspiring others to join in the cause. It features 200 doctors, nurses, lab technicians, kitchen and janitorial staff dancing. They’re all wearing pink hospital gloves made by Medline Industries in Illinois. A portion of the sales from the pink hospital gloves will be used to provide mammograms for uninsured women. The video has been viewed by nearly 5.5 million people:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pet Peace of Mind

Delana Taylor McNac is a hospice chaplain, former practicing veterinarian and creator of the Pet Peace of Mind Program, designed to assist hospice patients who are unable to maintain appropriate routine health care and nutrition for their animal companions due to medical expenses or caregiver disability. The program originated at Hospice of Green Country in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Delana served as Spiritual Director for four years. Delana is currently the Program Manager for Pet Peace of Mind with Banfield Charitable Trust , helping hospices all over the country implement the program for their patients and pets.

In her blog, Important Update about Pet Peace of Mind,  Delana writes, “For those of you who have had the chance to talk with me about the program, you already know that it's been my vision to help as many pets and patients as possible and I count it a privilege to be involved in the program as it continues to grow. I will work from home, here in Tulsa, using technology to train and support new programs. I will also travel periodically to Portland, Oregon to the BCT headquarters and probably to other places as things unfold. That means I will continue to work with Hospice of Green Country as I support the program here and the local pet/rescue organizations as well. Am I blessed or what!! This is a wonderful opportunity and I am very excited to share it with you today. Stay tuned!”

Friday, December 4, 2009

Positive Psychology to Combat PTSD?

In her usual direct and forthright manner, psychotherapist and guided imagery expert Belleruth Naparstek seriously questions the decision of the Department of Defense to introduce Positive Psychology to our active military in Iraq and Afghanistan, in hopes of reducing the incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In a recent Huffington Post article, she argues persuasively for more effective, less expensive approaches.  “Positive psychology may be worthwhile for corporate team building and personal growth," she writes, "but does it have the mojo to counter the profound despair and disorientation that comes from the horrors of combat?” See More Troops, More Rotations, More PTSD: Will Positive Psychology Save Our Soldiers?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Grief Songs: Music for the Grieving Heart

Image Source
[Reviewed and updated December 11, 2017]

When we are struggling with grief, music is a wonderful tool that can lift us up, take us out of our current mood, and transport us to another time and place.

When we cannot find the words, a particular song may express our thoughts and feelings even better than we are able to do.

With lyrics or without, music can be used as an escape or a respite from our pain, or as a form of relaxation or meditation while we confront our sorrow.

Music helps us to remember the one who died, and it can help to bring a sense of balance, peace and harmony back into our lives, even if only for a moment.

Based on recommendations from members of our own Grief Healing Discussion Groups (see Music That Soothes Me), this article links visitors to a number of beautiful songs whose lyrics have touched them in some meaningful way: Using Music to Help with Grief. Readers are invited to add to our list by posting a comment of their own.

See also Grief Healing's Pinterest board, Music for a Grieving Heart.

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below.
If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here

  • Using Music to Help With Grief
  • Alive Inside ~ "a joyous cinematic exploration of music's capacity to reawaken our souls and uncover the deepest parts of our humanity. Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the country who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music."
© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC

Monday, November 30, 2009

On Grief, Healing and Resilience

[Note: Originally published in November, 2009, this post was updated on March 17, 2013]

Billed as “the largest and most dynamic gathering of women in the nation,” the California Women’s Conference launched its website in July 2009, as a way to extend the power and reach of the conference.  The 2009 conference included very moving talks by Katie Couric on Resilience and Maria Shriver on Grieving, as well as a Panel on Grief, Healing and Resilience.

Katie Couric's husband died in 1997 after a 9-month battle with colon cancer; her sister died four years after that. In her presentation, she described how she managed to find meaning after both these devastating losses, along with her struggles to "make it" in a man's world of broadcast journalism, all the while relying on her father's advice simply to "do your best."

When this conference was held in 2009, Maria Shriver was California's First Lady, wife of Governor Arnold Schwartzenager, and producer of the conference. She presented herself a bereaved daughter and niece, as both her mother (Eunice Shriver) and her uncle (Teddy Kennedy) had died within a few months of this event. She spoke vividly and movingly about her grief ("Every moment of every day I can feel my broken heart") and the pain of losing her mother ("My mother's death has brought me to my knees. Life without my mother is unimaginable to me.")

Moderated by Maria Shriver, the panel featured bereaved parents Elizabeth Edwards (now deceased ex-wife of Senator John Edwards), Susan St. James (actress and wife of NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol) and Lisa Niemi (widow of Patrick Swazye). Topics ranged from coping with anticipatory grief, letting go, feelings of disloyalty and guilt, grief triggers, and dealing with the insensitivity of others, to finding hope and making meaning out of loss. Their stories were powerful, compelling, uplifting and filled with hope. Watch Good Morning America’s brief overview of the panel presentation on YouTube: Women Dealing with Grief.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Engage With Grace, 2009

Some conversations are easier than others.

Last Thanksgiving weekend, many bloggers participated in the first documented blog rally to promote Engage With Grace – a movement aimed at having all of us understand and communicate our end-of-life wishes.

It was a great success, with over 100 bloggers in the healthcare space and beyond participating and spreading the word. Plus, it was timed to coincide with a weekend when most of us are with the very people with whom we should be having these tough conversations – our closest friends and family.

Our original mission – to get more and more people talking about their end of life wishes – hasn’t changed. But it’s been quite a year – so we thought this holiday, we’d try something different.

A bit of levity.

At the heart of Engage With Grace are five questions designed to get the conversation started. We’ve included them at the end of this post. They’re not easy questions, but they are important.

To help ease us into these tough questions, and in the spirit of the season, we thought we’d start with five parallel questions that ARE pretty easy to answer:

Silly? Maybe. But it underscores how having a template like this – just five questions in plain, simple language – can deflate some of the complexity, formality, and even misnomers that have sometimes surrounded the end-of-life discussion.

So with that, we’ve included the five questions from Engage With Grace below. Think about them, document them, share them.

Over the past year there’s been a lot of discussion around end of life. And we’ve been fortunate to hear a lot of the more uplifting stories, as folks have used these five questions to initiate the conversation.

One man shared how surprised he was to learn that his wife’s preferences were not what he expected. Befitting this holiday, The One Slide now stands sentry on their fridge.

Wishing you and yours a holiday that’s fulfilling in all the right ways.

(To learn more please go to www.engagewithgrace.org. This post was written by Alexandra Drane and the Engage With Grace team. )

Advance Directives

[Reviewed and updated March 28, 2022]

In a segment entitled The Cost of Dying, 60 Minutes featured Ira Byock, MD, palliative care physician and author of the acclaimed books Dying Well and The Four Things That Matter Most. In this New Health Dialogue Blog post, Dr. Byock offers his thoughts on advance directives, arguing that physicians should be discussing these matters with all their adult patients, “whether these conversations are reimbursable or not.” See Health Care: Time for a Serious Discussion.

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below.
If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here

Saturday, November 21, 2009

An Invitation to Widowed Persons, from Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation

"Kick off the holiday season with hope by spending some time with Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation! We are planning parties in four different states to celebrate YOU! Widowed? Not looking forward to the holidays? Love someone who is widowed? Not sure how to help? Want to be inspired by the power of hope, and support a worthwhile cause at the same time? Join us at one of four uniquely fabulous locations, for great food, festive drinks, live music, silent auctions to get a jump on some gifts, support the programs of SSLF, and start the season off with a festive good time! Events will be held in: Los Angeles, CA 12/2 at 8:00PM. Austin, TX, 12/2 at 6:00PM, Seattle, WA 12/3 at 6:00PM, and Tribeca, NY 12/5 at 6:00PM. Send inquiry to contact@sslf.org for event details in your area!"

Friday, November 20, 2009

Research Report: An Internet Tool to Normalize Grief

Researchers have studied the usefulness of an Internet-based self-help tool, Making Sense of Grief, which they designed to inform, educate and support recently bereaved individuals experiencing normal grief. Results suggest that the intervention had a measurable positive impact on the participants, with no ill effects noted during follow-up interviews. The study points to “the positive potential of the Internet to assist the bereaved in normalizing their grief and enhancing adaptive adjustment to life without the deceased.” [Dominick S, Irvine A, Beauchamp N , Seeley J, Nolen-Hoeksema S, Doka K and Bonanno G. An internet tool to normalize grief. OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying. Vol. 60(1), 71-87, 2009-2010.]

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Web Site: The Eldercare Support Group

Caring for her aging father is what inspired Shelley Webb to develop The Eldercare Support Group,  along with her blog and bi-weekly newsletter, Taking Care of the Folks.  Using her own experience as a care giver as well as her education and training as a registered nurse, Shelley offers encouragement, empathy, education and effective strategies to enrich the lives of others caring for elder loved ones.  Included are helpful articles addressing various aspects of care-giving for the elderly, including self-care, money and legal issues as well as activities and health.  Visitors are welcome to subscribe to her (free) bi-weekly e-zine and download her special report, 12 Things You MUST Do To Stay Healthy and Sane While Caring for Your Aging Parents.   “You and I are on the same journey,” Shelley tells her visitors, “and together we can find the joy in caring for our loved one.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Web Site: The Heartlight Tree

Carla Blowey, bereaved mother and author of Dreaming Kevin: The Path to Healing, invites you to send an ornament in memory of a child who has died, to be placed on The Heartlight Tree this holiday season. This is an opportunity to let your lovelight shine, for your own child or for any child who has died and blessed your life. To learn how you can share your lovelight, visit The Heartlight Tree.

Article about Abandonment and Grief

Having recently learned of the death of the mother who abandoned her in early childhood, a woman asks, “Where is a grief support group for me?” Mother Loss And The Grief of Abandonment

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Interview, Are We Medicating Normal Grief?

[Reviewed and updated July 15, 2024]

In this informative interview with Open to Hope founders Drs. Heidi and Gloria Horsley, Dr. Richard Dew discusses the potential overuse of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication in grief. Speaking from his own experience not only as a physician but also as a bereaved parent himself, Dr. Dew notes that

• While the sorrow of grief is normal and to be expected, studies indicate that clinical depression is likely to occur in only 30-35% of bereaved parents; the other 70% will not experience the type of depression that calls for prescribed medication.

• Doctors should avoid prescribing antidepressants and anti-anxiety agents for newly bereaved parents, at least for the first 2-3 months following the death of a child. After that, if symptoms warrant it, a trial may be indicated – with the understanding that medication will not remove the grief; it only makes it more bearable.

• Studies show that 13% of those with a prior history of clinical depression will develop depression following the death of a child.

• Indications for antidepressant medication include inability to function and / or a history of depression prior to the death of a child.

• The newer antidepressant medications are far safer than their predecessors; they are neither addictive, nor lethal if taken as an overdose.

• Bereaved parents are wise to look for a counselor or therapist who is knowledgeable about and experienced in working with normal grief.

Listen to the entire interview here: Where Sadness Ends and Depression Begins

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing Newsletter. Sign up here.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Web Site: Custom Crafted Songs

Psychologist and award-winning singer/songwriter Anna Huckabee Tull enables mourners to give voice to their grief through beautiful custom-crafted songs of love and loss. Following an in-person or telephone interview during which she captures the essence of the person’s message and story, Anna reviews with her client the lyrics and rough-cut recording. Upon completion of the process (which takes from 3 to 6 weeks), the client receives a studio-recorded CD of the song, a lyric sheet, an originally designed and signed CD cover with lyrics, and coaching “on making your most successful ‘presentation’ of the song.” Anna's Web site, Custom Crafted Songs also features the Song of the Month, where you can listen to her songs, view the lyrics, and read the stories behind the songs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Articles on Caring for Wounded Soldiers

The Armed Forces Services Corporation is asking for help in gathering information for their Wounded Warrier Caregiver Project. In response to their request for information on compassion fatigue for the soldier's caregiver, Executive Director of Gift from Within Joyce Boaz put together two articles she thought would be useful for loved ones caring for their wounded soldiers. They are written by Gift from Within Board Member Dr. Angie Panos, who asks that her articles be shared with all of us:

Preventing Compassion Fatigue: What Veteran Spouse/Partner Caregivers Need To Know

Keeping Your Relationship Healthy When Your Veteran Spouse/Partner Is Injured

Additional Articles On Compassion Fatigue:

Charles Figley, Ph.D., The Art and Science of Caring for Others without Forgetting Self-Care

Janice Harris Lord, ACSW How to Provide Spiritually Sensitive Trauma Care

Angie Panos, Ph.D., Supporting Our Soldiers-PTSD Info For Chaplains

Angie Panos, Ph.D., Understanding and Preventing Compassion Fatigue - A Handout - For Professionals

Supporting Grieving Families after Fort Hood Tragedy

Through her work in the Public Affairs Office of TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, and through her own experience as the sister of a fallen soldier, Ami Neiberger Miller is well qualified to offer practical suggestions for expressing sympathy and support to the families affected by the horrific shootings at Fort Hood last week: How to Support Families Grieving after Fort Hood Tragedy. See also Fort Hood Tragedy: How You Can Help Right Now

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Anticipatory Grief and Mourning

[Reviewed and updated April 7, 2024]

Grief does not wait for death to happen; it occurs both in anticipation of and following a loss. Extended illness, disability, severe accidental injury, a terminal diagnosis or the aging and decline of an elderly family member can produce what is known as anticipatory grief and mourning. We find ourselves reacting and continually adapting not only to an expected loss, but to all the losses – past, present, and future – that are encountered in that experience.

Anticipatory mourning begins as soon as we become aware that death may happen. It begins when a life-threatening illness is diagnosed or a terminal prognosis is given, we understand that there is no cure, and we realize that death is likely or inevitable.

Issues of grief and loss are inherent in the care-giving process, and grief is experienced by everyone involved – whether we are the patient grappling with the illness or disability, or the family member, partner, close friend or care giver who is intimately connected with and looking after our loved one. We are coping not only with our own feelings of grief and loss, but also with physical and mental fatigue, and we may feel overwhelmed with all the financial, legal, medical and personal responsibilities associated with care-giving.

In some ways, anticipatory mourning can be harder than the grief we experience after the death, because when we are waiting for the death to happen, we are on constant alert, living in a state of emergency over an extended period of time.

On the other hand, this period offers the benefit of preparation time, as we and those close to us begin to think about our life without the one who is dying, and how we and our loved one can use the time remaining to reflect, to prepare for the future, and to finish unfinished business.

Suggestions for coping:

•Recognize that, in the beginning, it is normal to feel shocked, dismayed, helpless and numb, especially if the onset of the illness is sudden or unexpected. You need time to take in this most unwelcome news, at a pace that is tolerable for you.

•If you have the time and the skills, use the Internet to research the latest developments concerning the illness. List medical specialists conducting studies or research on the disease or condition. Locate local support groups related to the illness.

Investigate and reach out for available help and community support. Assemble a team of family, friends, clergy, neighbors, colleagues, health professionals, home health care and housekeeping services, church and other volunteer organizations. Explore care-giving resources on the Web, such as those listed here: Caregiving in Serious Illness: Suggested Resources.

Contact your local hospice at any time to inquire about hospice services; it is not necessary to wait until treatment aimed at cure is replaced with the goal of comfort and symptom relief. The best time to learn about end-of-life care is well in advance, when educated decisions can be made based on the input of everyone involved. The hospice staff will contact your doctor to determine if and when a referral to hospice is appropriate. Alternatively, you can talk with your loved one’s doctor directly, and he or she can make a referral to hospice. (To locate a hospice near you, see Find a Hospice or Palliative Care Program.)

Have emergency phone numbers and important resources readily available (legal, insurance, medical, financial, home repair).

Identify what needs to be done, and find help to do it (errands, grocery shopping, household repairs and maintenance, transportation, housecleaning, prescription pick-ups).

Follow the lead of the person who is dying, as a unique individual experiencing illness in a personal way, and choosing whether to openly discuss the illness and impending death.

Encourage – but do not force – open, honest communication among care givers, family members, friends, and the one who is dying. Recognize and respect the fact that some individuals may not be able or willing to talk about the reality of the illness and its probable course, either at the present time or with certain other persons or family members. Know that it is natural to take in the reality of a terminal diagnosis gradually, as facing it all at once is overwhelming. Listen without judging, giving others permission to express their thoughts and feelings about the illness without fear of criticism. Let others know how you are feeling and what you need.

Remember that this time for warmth, sharing and togetherness will not come again. Although communication may be frustrating and painful, now is the time to contemplate and clear up unresolved issues – to say, do and share what is especially intimate and meaningful, in a positive, affirming and encouraging manner.

Allow for the expression of difficult feelings by using alternative communication tools, such as letters, video- or audiotapes.

Anticipate the family’s new reality after the death, and do what you can to help the dying person complete end-of-life tasks (last will and testament, distribution of possessions, funeral preparation, gathering and safeguarding important documents such as medical, legal, and family papers).

Expect changes in the ways family members interact with one another. As the illness progresses, roles will shift. Responsibilities formerly held by the dying person will be reassigned, and everyone must adjust to those changes. Maintaining some of the normal family routines will help to provide security in the midst of all the chaos.

Let some details slide. Slow down, and focus on what is most important. Remember that the emotions that seem to have taken over your life right now will not last forever, and the rest of your life will not seem so sad and overwhelming.

Practice good self-care. Pay attention to your family’s needs for adequate rest, nutrition, exercise, recreation, respite, and fun. In your efforts to remain strong and care for the dying person, don’t let your own physical, emotional and spiritual needs, or the needs of other family members (especially children), get lost or neglected. Keep a journal or a diary; seek individual counseling; find and participate in an in-person or online support group for care givers.

Embrace and express your spiritual beliefs, if faith is important to you and your family. Turn to those spiritual practices that bring comfort, peace, and hope: prayer, meditation, listening to your inner voice, reading, attending religious services. Recognize that, under these circumstances, it is not at all unusual to feel angry at the doctors, at the one who is dying, or at God for the injustice of it all. If there are some things you prefer to discuss with someone outside the family, talk with a pastoral counselor or spiritual advisor. Find someone you trust who will not judge you, and who will listen to whatever thoughts and feelings you may need to explore.

What if the one who is dying is a child?

Give yourself time to confront the harsh reality that, as unfair and unnatural as it seems, the child is terminally ill and will not recover. Parents do not expect to outlive their children – it goes against the natural order of things. It is extremely difficult to process and accept the fact that a beloved, innocent child is dying.

Follow the child’s lead. Listen first, and do what you can to support and encourage open and honest communication with the child and among family members. Answer only what is asked, but be meticulously honest, using language at the child’s level of development and understanding. Lying to children in an effort to protect them from the truth of their condition is neither respectful nor loving, and can lead to confusion, frustration, mistrust and anger.

Pay attention to questions, statements or behaviors that may suggest a child’s trying indirectly to communicate other needs, questions or concerns.

Help the dying child live, laugh and play as happily and as normally as possible. Spend as much time together as you can. Help to maintain relationships and contact with peers through play dates, visits, phone calls, letters, cards and e-mail.

Remember the needs of the dying child’s siblings.

Do what you can to support and nurture other family members and close friends.

Find and utilize all available sources of support (Make-a-Wish Foundation, Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation, and others).

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November Is National Hospice Month

November is National Hospice Month: an opportunity to educate ourselves about the benefits of hospice, to better understand end-of-life issues, and to recognize the invaluable contributions of caregivers. Learn more here: Hospice Foundation of America

Monday, November 2, 2009

Losing a Cherished Pet: Myths and Misconceptions

[Reviewed and updated May 12, 2024]

Unfortunately, since the normal life span of most animals is so much shorter than our own, sooner or later most animal lovers will experience the loss of a beloved pet. Whether struggling with an animal’s chronic illness, facing a decision about euthanasia, or mourning the loss of a pet, our reactions may be so intense that we feel shocked and overwhelmed by them.

Yet grief at the loss of a beloved companion animal is no different from that of losing a cherished friend or special member of the family. Grief is a natural, spontaneous response to the loss of a significant relationship.

Even so, in my work with bereaved animal lovers and in conversations with family, friends and colleagues, I've still encountered a number of myths and misconceptions surrounding this different sort of grief. Here are just a few of them:

There is nothing special about the relationship between animals and humans. Your relationship with a companion animal can be just as special and loving as those you have with any other family member or close friend. Loving an animal is different from loving a human being, because a pet loves you in a way that people cannot: profoundly, boundlessly and unconditionally.

Losing an animal is less painful and less significant than losing a human loved one. Pain over the loss of a beloved companion animal is as natural as the pain you would feel over the loss of any significant relationship. Since cherished pets weave their way into every aspect of your daily life, in some ways it may be even more difficult to cope with losing them. Once they're gone, you're repeatedly encountering evidence of their absence and constantly reminded of your grief.

Having close relationships with animals (and grieving at their loss) is abnormal and unnatural. You need not let anyone influence you to believe that your relationships with animals are somehow wrong or less important than those you have with humans. Loving animals well and responsibly teaches all of us to better love all living beings, including humans. Grief is the normal response to losing someone you love, and grief is indifferent to the species of the one who is lost. Love is love, loss is loss, and pain is pain.

Relationships we have with animals are not as important as those we have with humans. Having deeply meaningful, spiritual and healthy relationships with animals is not abnormal, and in some cases may be more emotionally healthy, spiritually healing and personally rewarding than those we have with humans. Pets offer us a kind of loyalty, devotion and unconditional love that cannot be found in the more complicated relationships we have with relatives, friends and neighbors.

Death of a pet can be a useful “dress rehearsal” for the real thing, especially for children. Death of a pet is often a child's first real encounter with a major loss. Suddenly friendship, companionship, loyalty, support and unconditional love are replaced with overwhelming and unfamiliar feelings of loss, confusion, emptiness, fear and grief. Far from being a so-called dress rehearsal, for most children pet loss is a profoundly painful experience.

Most people think of euthanasia as a quick and easy way to get rid of their sick, dying, old or unwanted animals. Deciding when and whether to euthanize a beloved pet is probably one of the most difficult choices an animal lover ever has to make. On the one hand, you know that choosing to end your animal's life will intensify your own emotional pain, yet postponing the decision may prolong your animal's pain and suffering needlessly. At such times it is very important to explore all aspects of the euthanasia decision with your veterinarian and with others whom you trust, to listen to what your animal may be trying to tell you, and to trust your own intuition.

Conducting rituals, funerals or memorial services for dead animals is a frivolous waste of time and money, and those who engage in such practices are eccentric and strange. Whether for animals or for humans, death ceremonies and rituals help meet our needs to support one another in grief, acknowledge the important role our loved ones played in our lives, honor the memory of our departed companions, and bring meaning to our loss.

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here

Related Articles and Resources:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Support for College Students Facing or Coping with Loss

National Students of AMF, the Support Network “for college students with deceased or ailing mothers, fathers or loved ones,” shares the following announcement:

From the AMF Web site:

The National Students of AMF (deceased or "Ailing Mothers, Fathers," or loved ones) Support Network is the only organization dedicated to supporting college students coping with the illness or death of a loved one and empowering all college students to fight back against terminal illness.

We accomplish our mission by helping students to start chapters of Students of AMF on college campuses nationwide (currently 24), providing information and support through http://www.studentsofamf.org/ , raising awareness about the needs of grieving college students by annually hosting a National Conference on College Student Grief and National College Student Grief Awareness Week, and holding fundraising events, including the annual Boot Camp 2 Beat Cancer and AMF Banquet . . . Watch a 2-minute video about National Students of AMF at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxgnQUIyMow

Recommended Articles

Modifying CISD So As Not to Re-traumatize Survivors – Health Journeys and Guided Imagery expert Belleruth Naparstek suggests ways for those providing Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) to modify their protocol to maximize the benefits and minimize the possible risks: http://bit.ly/2Ewtem

When and How to Use Medicine in Grief – A family practice physician whose youngest son was murdered, Dr. Richard Dew is well acquainted with grief in the wake of homicide. Here he explains the difference between Situational and Clinical Depression, and suggests when pharmacological intervention might be indicated: http://bit.ly/28Yog3

When an Employee is Grieving the Death of a Child – Based on years of assisting bereaved parents to find compassion, understanding and hope following the death of their child, Senior Management Consultant Patrick T. Malone introduces The Compassionate Friends and some guidelines and suggestions for assisting the grieving employee in the workplace:

End of Life Counseling: Why It Really Matters – Michael Haederle argues convincingly in favor of “tough but essential conversations among doctors, patients and families” in the August 31, 2009 issue of AARP Bulletin Today: http://bit.ly/1UO2XA

Can We Ever “Accept” the Death of a Loved One? – Most mourners have trouble with words like “acceptance,” because in truth the death of a loved one will never, ever be “acceptable” to us. If these particular words seem bothersome, try substituting words like “reconciliation” and “integration,” and understand that it takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work to get to that point in the grief journey: http://bit.ly/5xEsg.

Learn about Yoga Breathing: A Simple Exercise for Beginners – Re-learning how to carry our bodies so we can breathe correctly is good for our overall health, and “yoga breathing” is one of the most effective ways to do it: http://bit.ly/BjteC

When the Neighborhood is the Retirement Village – Naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs) are those places not specifically designed for retirees, but with a higher number of elderly residents – some of whom have special needs related to aging. According to Fredda Vladdeck, Director of the United Hospital Fund’s Aging in Place Initiative, 25 states have developed service programs in support of NORCs, whose common mission “is transforming communities into good places to grow old:” http://bit.ly/1hG1Ij

How to Release Regret – In this helpful article, Irene Kendig discusses how in grief we might better deal with our assumptions about what we should or shouldn’t have done in a given situation: http://bit.ly/34sqwV

Compassionate Self-Forgiveness, Parts I and II – In a similar vein, Irene Kendig discusses the harsh judgments we place on ourselves when we feel guilty about something we did or failed to do, and offers a way for us to deal with them:

Part I, http://bit.ly/3XWARz
Part II, http://bit.ly/2yo0CG

Caregiving Website is LaunchedCareRunner (
www.carerunner.com ), an innovative website designed to provide non-professional caregivers with the online tools, information and support to more easily manage the care of loved ones, has announced that the free service has been launched and is available to the public: http://bit.ly/3aEOY0.

Documentary, Griefwalker

Film, Griefwalker – A feature length documentary about grief and the death dialogue and practice in Western culture, this film follows Harvard-educated theologian and end-of-life care educator Stephen Jenkinson as he provides compassionate grief counseling to the dying, their friends and family. Stephen embraces the philosophy and learned practice of grief as a skill rather than an enemy of life, and demonstrates how learning grief is central both to being a healthy human being and to making a healthy society.

Read more about Stephen here: http://orphanwisdom.com/griefwalker/

Mary Frances Knapp of Seven Ponds Blog reviews the film here: http://blog.sevenponds.com/lending-insight/film-review-griefwalker-2012-by-tim-wilson

For purchasing information, see: http://www.alivemindeducation.com/films/griefwalker/

© by Marty Tousley, CNS-BC, FT, DCC

Special Events

National Survivors of Suicide Day, Saturday, November 21, 2009 – The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) will hold its 11th annual National Survivors of Suicide Day on Saturday, November 21, 2009. Created by U.S. Senate resolution in 1999, this is a day of healing for those who are bereaved after a suicide loss. Every year, AFSP sponsors an event to provide an opportunity for the survivor community to come together on this day for support, healing, and information: http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?page_id=FEE7D778-CF08-CB44-DA1285B6BBCF366E

Camp Widow 2010 – Based on the success of this year’s National Conference on Widowhood, Michele Hernandez, Executive Director of Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation announces plans for next year’s gathering for widows and widowers at the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina in San Diego, CA, August 6-8, 2010: http://www.sslf.org/index.html. For further information, contact Michele Hernandez via email at contact@sslf.org.

Continuing Education Offerings Online

Continuing Education: Forthcoming Conferences

Annual Meeting, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS), November 5-7, 2009, Atlanta, GA: http://www.istss.org/meetings/index.cfm

2009 Celebrate Your Life Conference, sponsored by Mishka Productions, November 13 - 15, 2009, Phoenix, AZ: http://www.mishkaproductions.com/celebrate-your-life-2009-phoenix/

26th Annual Conference, International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, Pathways to Integration of Traumatic Experience: Individuals, Groups, Society, November 21-23, 2009, Washington, DC, http://www.isst-d.org/annual_conference/2009/index.htm


Welcome to the Grief Healing Blog! Formerly known (at least to my Hospice of the Valley Bereavement Counselor colleagues) as Marty’s Marvelous Resources, this is my way of sharing with the bereaved – and with those who care for and about them – all the online treasures I find as I work my way around the Internet, in search of the latest and best information having to do with end-of-life care, grief, loss and transition.

Because I work primarily online, I’m continually exploring what’s “out there” in cyberspace, as I search for grief resources I consider valuable enough to use and to share with others. Whether for my bereavement counselor colleagues and bereaved clients (in response to a given situation or request) or for my own personal interest, I am always looking for excellent articles, books, Web sites and resources – ones that I would consider valid, reliable, and useful enough to recommend to others.  

I've come to know the Internet as a rich and wonderful place for professional health care providers as well as for care givers, for people living with disabilities or with serious illness, and for those facing the end of life or coping with the loss of a loved one.  There are so many informative and helpful resources online, available to everyone.  You can access them in the privacy of your own home, and they are there at your fingertips, at no cost, at any hour of the day or night.  You are not alone!

I believe that many of the resources I've discovered deserve a wider audience and ought to be shared with everyone who may be interested. Finding useful information about care giving, end-of-life, grief, loss and transition is like a treasure hunt for me, and once I find these treasures, I don’t want to lose track of them. I have a need to “put” them somewhere so that others can find and use them, too ~ perhaps more easily and more quickly than I did. In addition to my Grief Healing Web site, my Facebook page and my activity on Pinterest and Twitter, this blog offers me a marvelous way to do that.

The volume of material available to us on the Internet is exploding, and many of us don’t have the time, the energy, or the inclination to find it, much less digest it all. You might think of this blog as my effort to “search the Web so you don’t have to.”

Here you will find announcements of forthcoming workshops, conferences, podcasts, radio and television programs focused on grief and loss, as well as links to recommended articles and other Web sites, along with an occasional article or book review that I have written myself.

If in your own travels you find something you think I should know about, or if you want to share your reactions to anything I’ve blogged about, please post your comment or send me an e-mail at tousleym@aol.com

This information was last reviewed and modified on May 21, 2014.

About Grief Healing

Launched in October 2009, the content of this blog is aimed at professional and family care-givers who serve the needs of anyone anticipating or coping with significant loss, including animal lovers, the elderly, the seriously ill and dying, and those who are living with disabilities.
Its purpose is to share any useful information about care giving, loss, grief and transition, whether it is found on the Internet or written by the author herself.
This blog is offered free of charge and receives no funding from anyone, either through advertising or affiliation.
All content and opinions, expressed or implied, belong solely to the author and not to any other organization, agency or institution.
Information offered on this site is not meant in any way to substitute for professional or medical advice.

Visitors are welcome to contact the author via e-mail (tousleym@aol.com).
E-mail addresses of those who subscribe to the blog via FeedBurner are kept private and not distributed to anyone.

Visitor statistics are tracked by Google Analytics, but only in the aggregate.

This information was last reviewed and modified on May 26, 2014.

My Profile

As both a bereaved parent and a bereaved daughter, I've focused my practice on issues of loss, grief and transition for more than 40 years. I joined Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix, Arizona as a bereavement counselor in 1996, and for ten years served as moderator for its innovative online Grief Healing Discussion Groups, until ownership of the site was returned to me in October, 2013. With my special interest in grief and the human-animal bond, I facilitated a pet grief support group for bereaved animal lovers in Phoenix for 15 years, and now serve as consultant to the Pet Loss Support Group at Hospice of the Valley and to the Ontario Pet Loss Support Group in Ontario, Canada. I am a contributing author for Open to Hope, The Grief Toolbox and Self-Healing Expressions, and have written a number of books, booklets, articles, online e-mail courses and e-books addressing various aspects of loss and grief. My own Grief Healing website offers information, comfort and support to anyone who is anticipating or coping with the loss of a loved one, whether that is a person or a cherished companion animal.  In my work with the bereaved, I accompany people who are struggling with, working through, and overcoming the most devastating of losses, and every day I learn something new from each of them. I cannot imagine more inspiring, uplifting work than this.  Read more of my personal story here: A Message from Marty. You can read more of my thoughts about caregiving, grief and bereavement here: A Conversation with Marty Tousley, Grief Counselor. My professional background and qualifications are described here.  I am fascinated by using Social Media as a way to learn, to connect and to share useful information about care giving, loss and transition. You can find me on LinkedIn, on Twitter @GriefHealing, on Facebook and on Pinterest, and you are cordially invited to connect with me on Google+.

(This information was last reviewed and modified on July 21, 2015.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

About Grief Healing Discussion Groups

[This information was last reviewed and modified on September 27, 2020]

Experience teaches us that, when facing life-threatening health concerns or the gut-wrenching grief that accompanies significant loss, we respond well to the information, comfort and support available to us on the Internet, provided that it is valid and reliable. It helps us feel as if we are not alone, exposes us to alternative ways of understanding and managing our responses, and puts us in touch with resources we might not know about otherwise.

Who can use this site?

Our online Grief Healing Discussion Groups site is accessible to anyone using the Internet.  Using a message board format, the site is specifically designed to address the individual needs of those who are anticipating or coping with significant loss.  Members can participate in forums that are separate and distinct from one another, according to their specific kind of loss: the loss of a spouse, partner or significant other; the loss of a child, parent, grandparent, sibling or friend; or the loss of a cherished companion animal.  Also included are forums for behaviors in bereavement; anticipatory grief and mourning; poetry of grief and loss; the latest news; general grief and loss topics; loss of a love relationship; new beginnings; and living with loss.  Members can join in the ongoing discussions in any of our forums, or start a new topic of their own.

How much does it cost?

While visitors are welcome to browse and registered members are free to use all the features of the site, we have added a Donate button to our pages, giving everyone an opportunity to donate toward its ongoing support. Members and visitors can contribute as much (or as little) as they can afford, and as often (or as seldom) as they choose, either all at once or over an extended period of time (that is, a recurring amount automatically deducted from a credit card each month). Donations are accepted via PayPal, credit card or bank account (where available).

How does this site differ from other online grief support groups? 

What distinguishes our  Grief Healing Discussion Groups site is that, unlike other self-help forums for the bereaved, this one is privately administered, closely monitored and professionally moderated to ensure the highest level of quality, safety and security for our participants. Every post is reviewed and read by our moderators, both professional grief counselors who visit the site several times a day.  (Our moderator feels a deep personal and professional responsibility to monitor our site in a way that encourages understanding, growth and healing. Verify her qualifications and professional credentials here.)

What about privacy? 

Membership is free, but will require that you register with a unique user name (not your "real" name) and secret password of your own choosing. Bear in mind that whatever you post on the site will be visible to anyone who visits the site, and may be searchable on public search engines. In order to protect your privacy (and prevent Internet search engines such as Google from finding you there), please do not use your full name as your display name, and do not include your address, telephone number or your e-mail address in any of your posts.
We hope that you will decide to join us!  Simply click on Grief Healing Discussion Groups, then click on the green Create Account button at the top of the page, and follow the instructions there.  (After you register, remember to bookmark the location as one of your favorite places.  Use your browser's "Back" button to return to this page.)

Why offer on-line discussion groups?

Studies have shown that the more support and understanding we have around us, the better we'll cope with our grief, and the sooner we'll come to terms with our loss. Recent research indicates that message boards offering online grief support can be very effective, provided that they are professionally monitored and moderated. 

The Grief Healing Discussion Groups offer yet another way for those of us who are bound by the experience of loss to learn more about what is normal in grief, and to communicate directly with one another so that everyone can benefit from the same information. It is our hope that by posting, reading and responding to the messages written there, we'll all come to a greater understanding of each other's grief and loss, and learn to be more caring, accepting and tolerant of one another.

You are cordially invited to use these forums to give words to your grief and express whatever you feel a need to say. You can ask questions to learn more about the normal grieving process, and you can talk with others about the ones you have loved and lost. You can share stories about your loved ones, say what was so special about them, express and work through your feelings, get your concerns and reactions validated, exchange helpful suggestions and ideas for coping with grief, or reflect with one another on the meaning of it all.

If you wish to share helpful or inspirational material written by someone other than yourself (e.g., excerpts, songs, poetry, quotations), please identify and credit your sources.  If you post health or medical information that is not part of your own personal experience, please make certain that such information is correct and true (to the best of your knowledge), and cite your reference (e.g., include a link to the online resource).

Are there any "ground rules"?

Our site is accessible to anyone using the Internet.  Individuals using our site accept and agree to abide by certain basic guidelines: 
  • Bear in mind that whatever material you post on the site is visible to the public, unless or until you choose to remove it.
  • When we share with one another, we recognize that whatever is said to one person is intended to be read by everyone. If we have something to say to one person that cannot or should not be shared with everyone, we must consider carefully whether it should be said at all.
  • We do not share any personal information that we don't want everyone else to know (full names, phone numbers, addresses, etc.)
  • Messages will be monitored for accuracy, honesty and appropriateness, and we reserve the right to remove immediately and without warning any posting deemed to be inaccurate, untruthful, repetitive, inappropriate, objectionable, insulting, disrespectful or intolerant of another's loss or point of view.
  • Duplicate posting (posting the same message more than once, or in several different forums) is not permitted.
  • Disagreements are acceptable, but our visitors are expected to treat one another with all the dignity, respect and caring we all deserve. We are sensitive to the wide variety of cultural practices and spiritual beliefs that make up our entire membership. Since everyone's experience of grief is unique to the individual, and our members may be at different places in their own grief journey, we realize that what is comforting to one person could be experienced as offensive to someone else.
  • Product promotion, solicitation and other forms of advertising are not permitted on the site, and such posts will be removed immediately, without prior warning.
Are these forums designed to be a substitute for grief counseling or grief therapy?

The information offered on this site is not meant in any way to substitute for professional or medical advice. Our Grief Healing Discussion Groups are offered as a supplement to – not as a substitute for – sharing with a trusted other (relative, friend, neighbor, clergy, colleague), participating in an in-person grief support group or meeting with a professional grief counselor or therapist. The site is best used primarily for social and emotional support, and for exchanging information about end-of-life care, loss, grief and transition.

We strongly recommend that our forums be used as a compliment or adjunct to traditional grief therapy or grief counseling. It also needs to be said that some people’s needs may exceed the capacity of an online message board to help. Sometimes grief can be so complicated that people get “stuck” in the process, and they need more help than we can give them in forums such as these. Individuals struggling with complicated grief are encouraged to seek the help of a professional therapist. Persons in danger of hurting themselves or someone else, those whose anger is out of control, or those whose grief does not diminish at all over an extended period of time, will not find what they need on this site, no matter how many messages they post. Therefore we urge such individuals to seek professional assistance at once, so they can get the help they so badly need and deserve. We believe that grief counseling and individual psychotherapy are among the most precious gifts we can choose to give to ourselves, and they can change our lives for the better.

What do those who've used the site have to say about it?

We think the very individuals who’ve found their way to our site are the ones who can describe most eloquently whatever benefits they've discovered there. You can read what several of our members have to say about our individual forums here: Testimonials.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
What if you are in crisis?

The site is not intended for individuals who are in crisis and actively contemplating suicide.  If you're thinking of suicide, read this first.  If you are experiencing serious suicidal thoughts that you cannot control, please stop now and telephone 911 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

What if you need technical assistance?

If you're having difficulty and need help using the features of the site, please contact the site's administrator via e-mail (tousleym@aol.com).
If you wish to contact someone about your member account, contact the site's administrator (tousleym@aol.com).     

If you think the moderator should be aware of the existence of a post or a topic and you wish to report it, use the Report button that appears at the base of that post.

If you find that the site is down or isn't functioning properly, please contact the site's administrator (tousleym@aol.com).  

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