Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Reminder About Grieving...

This week, I received a touching email from a young friend who had remembered that the anniversary of my husband's death is approaching.

She has given me permission to share part of that email with you as a reminder that what we do teaches healthy grieving as much as, or more than, what we say.

"...on the topic of how we learn to not talk about and express our grief: one thing that I think is so cool about you and about being at your house/with you, is how it's totally ok to talk about derrick anytime. it's never a hush hush subject or something that shouldn't be brought up, just in case somebody gets sad. in the middle of breakfast or in the car or whenever, it's ok to just suddenly laugh or cry or just talk about derrick and something that he would have liked or something he did, or whatever. i think that's really cool. your home has always been a safe place for all kinds of emotions, and i like that that holds true for any emotion having to do with derrick, even though it may be difficult to talk about.

i think that's really cool and healthy ... thank you."

At a time when we still seem so afraid of death that we can't even say the word comfortably, (- he passed, she passed on, he passed away -), it's good to know that an effort to break the "don't grieve" rule with which I grew up, and to provide the young people in my life with support for healthy grieving, has borne fruit. I will take my young friend's email to heart and will continue to try to "walk the walk" as well as talking the talk.

(Photo by BigStock Photos)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Here I am, back from a truly restful and happy vacation and full of energy for the possibilities of the fall.

The last thing I did before returning to work on Monday was to drive out to Fischer's Farm in Richmond where I bought my annual 80 pounds of "Big Blue" blueberries to stock the freezer. As I bagged the big, sweet berries I thought about how satisfying it is to recognize and acknowledge our "harvest", the fruits of our labours, be they 160 bags of blueberries or making a dying loved one comfortable or helping a client to live life to its fullest.

We all have a harvest that is worth acknowledging and the more space we make to remember the times when we've made a difference, the more resilient we become to burnout and compassion fatigue. The knowledge that we've done something that matters, even something small, helps to cushion us on the days when we feel exhausted, incompetent or overwhelmed.

Two of my colleagues make a point of calling each other every Friday afternoon to talk about the things that went well that week. Another friend keeps a scrapbook of all the cards and thank you notes he's received over the years as a family physician. Yet another keeps the newspaper clippings regarding successful rescues made by his Search and Rescue team. And still another re-reads her gratitude journal regularly to remind herself that what she does does make a difference.

What about you? What is your harvest this week? How can you keep track of that harvest in a way that will nourish and sustain you in the days ahead?