Strategies to help with death and dying

I like reading the obituaries. It’s the first section I flip to in our local paper.

I like reading the obituaries. It’s the first section I flip to in our local paper.

It’s OK — you can breathe a sigh a relief knowing you aren’t the only one!

Reading obituaries reminds me of my own mortality and allows acknowledgement of the death of people I know.  More importantly, it gives me the opportunity to remember a human being’s life story and often, the legacy they leave behind.

For those family members who’ve lost an elderly parent or relative, an obituary is just one of the many, many ways to manage their grief.

Just recently, my beloved great-uncle Harvey died suddenly at 94 years.

The news of the death of the man we knew affectionately as Unky Harv knocked me off my feet.

That might surprise you. After all, working with seniors for almost 20 years, you might think I’d have the sense to better prepare myself.

Grief is pretty powerful, at times unpredictable and unique to each of us.

My great-uncle played such an important part of my life; outside of my parents, he was probably my No. 1 fan when touring with the national field hockey team brought me to B.C. His support during my move to the west coast to pursue my masters degree only strengthened our connection.

Uncle Harvey used to relish at being a “research participant” in my ongoing “experiment” on successful aging. The sudden loss of his physical presence was shocking and in a very selfish way, I didn’t want that tangible and incredibly special relationship to end.

Grief is hard work and takes enormous energy on many levels — physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. It’s also universal.

The saying, “You can run but you can hide” rings true with grief. As much as some of us want to, there is no way to avoid it.

Our personal beliefs around death and grief are shaped by a personal compilation of experiences with the loss of significant people in our life.

But how we each deal with death, dying and grief is uniquely ours.  How we cope with death depends on many factors including the type of relationship we shared with our aging loved one, the role a parent played in life, whether the illness was lengthy or unanticipated, etc.

Mitch Albom, the author of Tuesdays with Morrie once said, “Death ends a life, not a relationship.”

One of my personal beliefs is we take the memories of our aging loved ones with us in the future acting as an unbroken link between the deceased and the bereaved.

Loss and grief are also often part of caregiving while aging parents are still alive.

The following words from a client directly speak to this: “Encouraging people to talk with their elders about well lots, but about death, their wishes, their fears and to talk about and share love, kindness, memories even if it seems like it is still some time in the future.”

Death and dying is a big topic to cover. With the help of some local experts, the next few columns will explore coping strategies, what’s normal grief and what isn’t and ideas on how to initiate talking to aging loved ones about death and dying.

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

James Hutchison was sentenced in court for a robbery from April 2019. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Accused sentenced for early morning robbery in Courtenay

Hutchison gets credit for 218 days in custody but given 120 more days in jail

Tidal Café owners Blythe and Kurt Reimer (left) and Toscano’s head chef and general manager Tristan Taylor have been sharing deck space to help both businesses during the expanded COVID public health order restrictions that ban indoor dining. Photo by Terry Farrell
Neighbouring Comox restaurants share patios for mutual benefit during COVID restrictions

Two restaurants in Comox are working together to help ease the burden… Continue reading

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
A little girl’s wish is answered as her cat came back

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

John Ludlow is making leis for sale for $20 each, with all proceeds to be donated to the Comox Valley Transition Society. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Celebrating kindness, joy and helping others on Lei Day

Ludlow is making leis for sale with proceeds to be donated to the Comox Valley Transition Society

Cumberland is finalizing its tax rate bylaw for the year, which will see a 4.93 per cent increase. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland moving ahead on 4.93 tax hike

Residential rates’ hike was less than projected during planning stages

A peacock struts by a pair of lamb siblings at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, which remains closed to the public. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
VIDEO: Victoria petting zoo optimistic about future after 13 months closed

Public helps non-profit Beacon Hill Children’s Farm with nearly $100,000 influx

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

LUSH Valley is seeking help from local governments to help restart its Good Food Box program for vulnerable citizens. File photo
Courtenay to determine contribution to Good Food Box program

The City of Courtenay is in the process of determining an appropriate… Continue reading

FILE – RCMP officers wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 stand by as protesters opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion block rail lines, in Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, November 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Very scary’: B.C. travel rules too vague, shouldn’t involve police, civil liberties group says

BCCLA said that speaking with communities could have avoided top-down approach

A man accused of choking a 15-year-old in his tent in Beacon Hill Park Tuesday night has been arrested by Victoria police. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man accused of choking, sexually exploiting 15-year-old in Victoria tent arrested

Police arrested the 38-year-old in Beacon Hill Park Wednesday afternoon

Ocean Legacy Foundation members conduct a shoreline pollution cleanup in Vancouver. (OLP)
It’s time to end ‘suffocating’ plastic pollution along B.C. shorelines, advocates urge

This Earth Day, Ocean Legacy Foundation is launching a free educational platform to educate the public about plastic pollution

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. university rowing coach ‘deeply sorry’ after complaints

Barney Williams says he’s been committed to ensuring no other member of the roster had a similar experience

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
B.C. teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Most Read