Coping With Grief Classes to Start in September

My mother’s relationship with my grandmother was peculiar. Always a bit of a prima donna, Grandma got more needy and helpless as she got older and became totally dependent on my mom when my grandfather died after 56 years of marriage.

From a very young age my mother was forced into the role of adult. Many of us will start parenting our parents as they become elderly but, my mother started well before Grandma turned 30! By the time Grandma died, at 92, my mother finally felt relief.

And, that was the beginning of my mother’s clinical depression. As a geriatric social worker and widow counselor, my mom didn’t think she needed any grief counseling. Wrong. She didn’t realize how not having the responsibility for the feed and care of her mother would leave a void in not only her daily schedule, but in her heart.

Starting Monday, September 18 and running through November 6, Bonner General Health Community Hospice will be holding a series of workshops geared to Coping with Grief. These free workshops are held at the BGH conference room (520 N. Third Street) from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. There’s an application and screening process and the deadline to apply is September 8. Contact Lissa DeFreitas at 208-265-1185 for information.

The topics they’ll cover in these workshops include expressing feelings, understanding grief, stress and coping, social support, role changes and remembrances. I honestly believe that if my mother had participated in this type of program she would avoided several difficult years of despondency.

“Coping with the loss of a close friend or family member may be one of the hardest challenges that many of us face,” The American Psychology Association website says. “When we lose a spouse, sibling or parent our grief can be particularly intense.

“Loss is understood as a natural part of life, but we can still be overcome by shock and confusion, leading to prolonged periods of sadness or depression. The sadness typically diminishes in intensity as time passes, but grieving is an important process in order to overcome these feelings and continue to embrace the time you had with your loved one.”

I won’t tell you that the Hospice classes are a panacea for depression following the death of a loved one, but I will tell you that having the tools to understand the process of grieving can be extremely helpful. I’ve spoken to several people who’ve participated in these workshops and every one of them has expressed how it was helpful towards alleviated the excruciating, painful feeling of loss.

“Human beings are naturally resilient,” APA says. “But some people may struggle with grief for longer periods of time and feel unable to carry out daily activities. Mourning the loss of a close friend or relative takes time, but research tells us that it can also be the catalyst for a renewed sense of meaning that offers purpose and direction to life.

They say that some people may fiend the following strategies useful in coming to terms with loss:

  • Talk about the death of your loved one. “Denying the death is an easy way to isolate yourself, and will frustrate your support system in the process,” APA advises.
  • Accept your feelings. Normal emotions include sadness, anger, frustration and exhaustion.
  • Take care of yourself and your family. “Eating well, exercising and getting plenty of rest help us get through each day and move forward,” APA says.
  • Reach out and help others dealing with the loss. Remember that you aren’t the only one grieving. Others are sharing your grief and helping them may make you feel better.
  • Remember and celebrate the lives of your loved ones. “…honor that unique relationship in a way that feels right to you,” APA says. That might mean making a donation to the deceased’s favorite charity, setting up a scholarship program in his or her name, naming a child after the deceased, making a family keepsake album of photographs and memorabilia.

And, take the Coping with Grief classes that BGH Community Hospice is offering. They are free and they are priceless.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.