A few years ago, my husband and I befriended a young couple, Kent and Sherlene. We attended the same church and spent time together often. They were a little older than us, but we both had school-aged children, and we lived in the same community.
Last December, our friends received devastating news: Kent was diagnosed with renal cancer. Through my father’s experience with mesothelioma, I’m all too familiar with the chaos that follows a tough diagnosis. I fully understood the fear and anxiety in Sherlene’s voice when she told me the news.
Kent’s prognosis was grim, and he didn’t have much time to get his affairs in order. The events that soon unfolded were entirely chaotic, and my dear friends were swept up in a whirlwind of uncertainty.
The doctors told Sherlene she should swiftly contact hospice so they could begin caring for Kent. Sadly, he passed on Dec. 19, 2015, just nine days after his diagnosis.
After Kent’s death, Sherlene ignored several of the hospice center’s attempts to contact her about grief counseling. Like many people shocked by the sudden death of a loved one from mesothelioma or another cancer, she didn’t know many hospice centers provide grief counseling services for free.
Guidance Through Grief
Watching my friend experience such tragedy was heartbreaking. My father didn’t opt for hospice care after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, but I now see hospice services could have been so beneficial for my mother and me.
To help Sherlene, I searched for more information about hospice and grief counseling. After doing some research, I discovered our local hospice isn’t the only one offering free grief counseling. Hospice centers across the nation provide these services for family members coping with loss.
In addition to counseling, some facilitate support groups for grieving families. It often helps to talk to others who have carried the same burdens of loss that you may be experiencing.
I found some excellent resources about grief from Hospice Net, a Nashville-based nonprofit organization that helps patients and families struggling with a life-threatening illness. It offers many useful and informative tools for grieving family members, including an article answering some frequently asked questions about grief.
Sherlene Takes the Call
It hasn’t been easy for Sherlene to pick up the pieces, but it’s necessary now that she is a single parent. Immediately following Kent’s death, she struggled with her own health issues and the activities of daily life.
At first Sherlene ignored multiple calls from the hospice center, but one day she picked up the phone by accident. They spoke with her about grief counseling, but she said she didn’t see the need. She felt like she was already beginning to heal on her own.
Reluctantly, Sherlene agreed to try counseling. She figured she didn’t have anything to lose, and after all, it was a free service provided as part of her husband’s care.
Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help
Experiencing grief is a normal response to losing someone we love. Going to support groups or counseling sessions doesn’t mean you are “crazy” or “mentally ill.” It is completely reasonable to need a little extra attention and support after the loss of a loved one.
While researching grief counseling, I kept coming across “A Guide to Grief: Bereavement, Mourning and Grief” on medical and hospice websites. This guide from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) provides an excellent overview of grief therapy and various ways people can learn how to cope with loss.
Learning more about the ideal outcomes of grief counseling helped me understand why so many people benefit from it. The NCI guide explains some key goals of grief counseling, including:
- Help the bereaved accept the loss. Accepting the loss of a loved one is difficult. Sometimes, talking about the loss can help you learn to accept it.
- Identify and express related emotions. People who have lost a loved one are thrust into the unknown and experience emotions they’ve never felt before. Counseling can help you identify these strange emotions and understand why you are experiencing them.
- Learn to make decisions alone. It can be difficult to make decisions without the advice and support of the lost loved one.
- Begin new relationships. Experiencing a tough loss can leave some people with difficulties socializing. It can be hard to make new friends and maintain relationships with old friends.
- Gain understanding about grief. It helps to understand that grief, and the accompanying emotions, are normal responses to loss. It is also important to understand people develop coping mechanisms to deal with their emotions.
- Provide continuous support. Having a strong support system is crucial to recovering from the loss of a loved one.
Most people struggling with grief just want to get their lives back. During grief counseling, hospice support staff or a licensed counselor can help you set goals for recovery and guide you as you work toward achieving them.
A Story of Success
Attending counseling was the right choice for Sherlene. She is now doing well. She was so inspired by her grief counseling experience that she started her own faith-based support group for local widows.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember our strengths when we find ourselves in our darkest hour. Grief counseling can be the light at the end of the tunnel for anyone who has suffered a significant loss. I wish I had known the benefits of counseling when mesothelioma claimed my father.