Archive for the ‘Grief’ Category

Reframing Negative Emotions When Life Throws You A Curve

Posted on February 10th, 2016 by karen

Help When Life Throws You A Curve

by Alana Pietrantuono, LMSW

When a loved one falls seriously ill, family members are faced with an unexpected turn of events, one that likely alters the plans they had spent their entire lives constructing. Accepting these changes is a challenge for anyone — they can leave you feeling as though your life has come to a screeching halt.

Joyce, a 35-year-old nurse, was on the verge of purchasing her first home. She had worked hard for many years and finally saved enough money to realize the dream of owning her own place. But when the health of her father, Charles, a 74-year-old Parkinson’s sufferer, took a turn for the worse, Joyce was forced to put her plans of home ownership on hold.

You see, Joyce had been her dad’s primary caregiver ever since her stepmother, Janet, passed away two years before, and it became clear to her that some serious sacrifices would have to be made in order to help her dad. She felt she had two choices: she could either quit her job and move in with her father to take care of him full-time, or continue working and spend the money she had saved for her condo to pay for his around-the-clock care at home. Charles would not consider moving to a nursing home, as he insisted he was still grieving the loss of wife and didn’t want to leave the house where he and Janet had lived together.

Joyce, for her part, was utterly destroyed by the loss of her home-owning dream. And while she felt guilty about this overwhelming emotion, she still couldn’t deny feeling angry and cheated. “I never thought that this is what my life would become,” she said at our first meeting. “I can’t even cope! But I can’t imagine leaving my father either. I would be a terrible daughter.”

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Saying Goodbye: A Daughter’s Journal

Posted on November 18th, 2015 by karen

Marianne & Beth Whitman

In loving memory of Marianne Whitman, we are re-running this blog written by her daughter Beth for In Care of Dad two years ago today.

by Beth Whitman

I was thinking about last Monday, when I visited Mom. It was dinner time, and I noticed that she was holding her cup of chocolate milk up to her lips, and trying to drink, but she couldn’t figure out how to tip the cup so that the milk would get to her mouth. I put my hand on hers and helped her tip the cup. She drank deeply, almost finished the whole thing in one go. I refilled the cup, and again she couldn’t figure out how to tip it toward her mouth. So I helped her again. And after a couple of times, her hand began to remember the motion and she was able to do it herself. But she put the cup down, and when she picked it up again her hand had forgotten.

The process of saying goodbye happens over and over again in little ways. But today it happened a big way. Today she died.

I did not wake up this morning expecting to have my mom die today.

I feel somehow a little guilty.

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Meal Train: The Best Thing Since Chicken Soup

Posted on October 15th, 2015 by karen

Chicken Tortilla soup from Rosie in New Canaan CT

by Karen Keller Capuciati

When you have a sick friend and you want to help out, sometimes you don’t know what to do. Offers to help — Don’t hesitate to call me! — seem perfunctory. You don’t want to be intrusive or force your sick friend to assign you a job, but you’d really like to show your love and concern . . .

Helping can get complicated.

Well, it just got less complicated. Meal Train is an interactive online service that allows family, friends and neighbors to sign up for delivering meals to friends and loved ones going through difficult times and/or significant life events, whether it’s surgery, cancer treatments, grieving a recent loss, arrival of a new baby, or just to ease the strain of everyday caregiving.

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Books And Movies For Inspiration And Support

Posted on September 24th, 2015 by karen

Music Movies & Books for caregivers

by Karen Keller Capuciati

Getting engrossed in a book or a movie can offer a pleasant escape from our daily routine. But for those of us caring for another person, enjoying a book or movie seems like a luxury we just don’t have time for. It’s critically important, though, to find time for ourselves as well — and many times we can gain more than just a break from caregiving by listening to a story someone else wants to tell.

Sometimes a well-told story can bring us a smile, or a new perspective, or inspire us in a way we couldn’t have anticipated. And, honestly, even a good sitcom has the power to turn my mood around.

Over the past four years, In Care of Dad has published many helpful accounts and advisements from the health professionals at Family Centers in Fairfield County, CT, on combating caregiver and grief-related isolation. So we asked them to share some of the titles they might pass on as recommendations to their clients.

From that list:

the conversation

“The Conversation” by Angelo Volandes — This is an accessible guide to the stressful end-of-life communications with loved ones. It offers tremendously valuable advice to those of us taking care of aging parents and, ultimately, to us all. Death is never an easy topic to discuss on a personal level. In fact, many people avoid talking about it altogether, particularly when a loved one’s death is imminent. However, given that we cannot opt out of the event itself, being empowered to discuss death helps families when the unavoidable time comes. Volandes’s book is a truly valuable asset for having this important discussion.
— Amanda Geffner, MSW

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Goodbye House, Goodbye Dad

Posted on September 9th, 2015 by karen
processing grief

Cynthia’s dad, Norman, surrounded by his family in the family home.

by Cynthia Greb

A part of me doesn’t want to write this. I don’t want to revisit my grief. And, I also want to write this while the memories are still somewhat fresh.

Six weeks ago I temporarily moved into the room I had lived in as a teenager. It was the family home, although my family no longer lived there. The kids were all grown and my parents had both recently moved into a nursing home — my father because of the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and my mother because there was no longer money for the caregivers we’d hired to assist her.

My home was in Colorado, but I was back in Pennsylvania to spend time with both of my parents and to sell, sort through, and dispose of all the remaining family possessions so that the bank could take possession of the family home. No, it wasn’t a case of foreclosure; it was because we’d had to get a reverse mortgage to pay for my parents’ care. And with them no longer at home, the house had to go to the bank. To say it was a time of great change for the Greb family would be an understatement.

So, I walked in the front door loaded down with my luggage. And I gazed around in shock. My siblings had told me about the pipe that had burst about two weeks before. Apparently the thermostat had been set at about 50 degrees, but one particular bedroom hung over an open porch and I guess the radiator pipes couldn’t hold up to the record cold temperatures.

Large sections of hard wood floor had been pulled up. Insulation had been ripped out. Drywall had been torn down. Rusty looking stains ran down the hall walls. Wainscoting had been removed. One closet had been completely ruined. Furniture and other items had been moved from the damaged areas and stuffed into adjacent rooms. There was a layer of dust everywhere from the work my brother and the clean-up crew had begun. Several fans were going and the living room still smelled of mold and mildew. It was a large house and it looked like a good third of it had been ruined. And the rest of it was looking none too good either.

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Crisis Time: Overcoming Family Barriers

Posted on August 5th, 2015 by karen
Crisis Time Overcoming Family Barriers

Nonno seated in front with his family.

by Nadia Fiorita

Everyone knows that family dynamics can be complicated. Sometimes there are grievances that linger for years, and other times there are relationships that just never get a chance to bloom. But when a family faces a serious health crisis, with all its inherent pain and fear, the potential for loss casts a different light on strained relations.

My grandfather — Nonno to his 14 grandkids — was diagnosed in the spring of this year with multiple brain tumors, for which his doctor recommended immediate radiation treatments. Four years earlier, Nonno managed to survive a bout of lung cancer so serious that he was given only 3-6 months to live.

My relationship with my grandfather wasn’t as good as I would have liked. We didn’t visit him much while I was growing up due to an ongoing conflict between my parents that carried over into other family relationships. But a couple of years ago my father’s mother passed away unexpectedly, and I remember being stopped in my tracks by this. I was distressed by the realization that I would never have any relationship with my very own grandmother.  That struck me as very sad indeed.

So when Nonno’s health began a steady decline in the wake of a seizure and hospitalization following a radiation treatment, I decided to embrace the moment and make sure that Nonno did not depart this world before I had a chance to really connect with him. I felt that I needed to make up for lost time, so I made it a priority to see him as often as I could.

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“Deathiversaries” And Post-Death Birthdays

Posted on July 16th, 2015 by karen
death anniversaries

Cynthia’s dad in 2010.

We are pleased to share this blog with you. It first appeared on Cynthia’s WordPress site in April 2015.


by Cynthia Greb

What do you call a birthday when that person is no longer on this earth? I guess it’s still the anniversary of his birth, although we are no longer counting the years he has lived.

Dad’s birthday is April 30th. I wrote the first draft of this piece back in February on the first anniversary of his death. But then I set it aside to read it and revise it later. And “later” turned into another month. And now I’m dusting it off one more time.

It’s not easy to remember death.

There are so many wonderful, wonderful things to remember about Dad: his teasing and horsing around; his affection for his wife, kids, and especially his grandchildren; all his years of hard work supporting his family and never complaining; his love of naps; the way he always had time for his family; his dedication to the churches he attended and served; all the little vacations we took together; his love of food; his gregarious personality; his gratitude; his love of nature. I could go on and on. But sadly, I seem to be stuck in an endless review of his last few months.

If he had started to drastically decline and then simply continued that decline, I think I could have accepted that. After all, death comes to each one of us, and after several years suffering the indignities of Alzheimer’s, I’m sure, at some level, he was more than ready to let go of this life. As a matter of fact, for several months, while he was still living in his home, he would repeatedly tell us, “I’m ready to go home. Please take me home. Please take me home.”

We had thought he was confused and couldn’t remember that this was his own home. We tried in vain to convince him that this was the home he’d built with his own two hands when the rancher had become too small for his burgeoning family. We pointed to all the pictures of the family on the mantle. We said, “See? There we all are! This is your home.” But it made no difference. He was caught in a sad loop, not realizing he was in his own home.

At least that’s what we thought at the time.

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Remembering A Life, Moment To Moment

Posted on July 1st, 2015 by karen

The Rose!! by Helen Forsyth Richardson

This July marks nine years since Dad passed away. Here’s one of our favorite pieces honoring him.


by Kim Keller

A couple of weeks ago I came upon this quote:

We do not remember days; we remember moments.” It’s attributed to Cesare Pavese, an Italian author, poet and critic.

Well, I quickly thought, of course that’s true, but I never really absorbed the idea that an entire lifetime of hours and minutes and seconds could be distilled down into the moments we recognize as our memories.

After my father died, I was shattered and for the longest time I obsessed over his final days, replaying them over and over in my head. I started to worry that those painful memories might end up being my permanent record.

But that’s not how it turned out.

With time, the awful heartache eased, and now Dad shows up regularly in my life, in the most unexpected places. Each time it’s a wonderful little surprise, and I rarely see the triggers coming.

The smell of Old Spice will do it. I can see my dad chuckling at that and insisting, “Kim, I stopped wearing Old Spice back in the 70s!”

Maybe so, but that smell still takes me instantly back to my childhood, sitting on the toilet seat, watching my dad shave and splashing his face at the end with Old Spice.

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Surviving Anxiety: How To Talk Your Way Out Of Trouble

Posted on May 28th, 2015 by karen

Anxiety and Loss

by Erin Tishman

Milly was a 65-year-old woman who came into my office complaining of persistent neck and stomach pain. She said she could no longer drive her car on a regular basis because the neck pain was so severe, and her digestive system was also suffering whenever she ate certain foods that she had enjoyed without problems her entire life.

Milly’s husband, Sal, had recently been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s a nervous system disorder that severely weakens the muscles and impacts all physical function. Its progression is known to be very fast.

Milly and Sal did not have any children, and their extended family was living in the Midwest, where she and Sal had met. Milly never worked because Sal’s Wall Street job had afforded them a comfortable life, and given Milly the opportunity to spend her time volunteering and being a homemaker. She took great pride in her gardens and was always pleased to have company so she could show off her hard work.

When Sal was diagnosed with ALS, Milly became his caretaker on a round-the-clock basis, attempting to meet all of his needs — even just to scratch his back whenever needed. Milly’s life became consumed with helping Sal and, because of the rapid progression of his illness, she found herself forgoing sleep, getting only a couple of hours here and there, when she could.

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Coming To Grips With End Of Life Wishes

Posted on February 25th, 2015 by karen

Coming To Grips With End Of Life Wishes

by Stephanie Haen

Little did I know when Daniel walked into my office for our first session that I would soon be faced with helping him and his wife Susan — a pair of young newlyweds — come to grips with a decision that would surely hasten the end of Daniel’s life.

Eight months earlier, at the age of 24, Daniel had been diagnosed with brain cancer. He had recently decided to forgo the prescribed treatments, as they were causing him severe pain and daily bouts of vomiting, but, more importantly, they had failed to yield any positive results. Daniel had decided that he didn’t want the time he had left to be filled with additional sickness and pain. And while he appeared to be at peace with his decision, Susan clearly wasn’t. Daniel asked me to meet with them both, to help his wife better understand his decision and come to terms with it.

As human beings, death is the one thing we all have in common. Whether it’s facing our own mortality or someone else’s, we will all experience that dreaded word at some point. For most of us, all it takes is an earnest discussion about death to unleash our fear and anxiety, even when we’re talking about someone we hardly know. But when a loved one is the focus of the conversation, our decision-making abilities are severely strained.

Often, it’s hard to understand the choices that are made when a person is facing death, disability or severe chronic pain. We are all unique in how we feel, think, and perceive ideas, especially an idea as profound as death. So what happens when a loved one makes a decision you disagree with, especially when it’s a decision you don’t understand or consider to be wrong or cowardly? How do you stand by and allow your loved one to make such a decision?

Consider the following:

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