Anna-Gene O'Neal, RN, BSN, Expert on Hospice and Home Health

Contact Anna-Gene
27 March 2020

Like me, you’ve probably heard at least one of the many myths surrounding grief. Maybe you’ve heard something like, “It’s important to be strong in the face of loss,” or “the pain will go away faster if you ignore it,” or even the notion that “grieving should only last about a year.”

When in fact, we know that feeling sad or frightened is a normal reaction to loss, and you don't have to put on a brave face or worry that crying makes you weak. And trying to ignore the pain of loss only delays real healing. And, of course, there is no set timetable for grief. Grief never, in fact, goes away; we just learn how to embrace our memories in as positive a way that we can.  

Grief is complicated, and it takes many forms. While there are some similar experiences, grief is different for each individual. As healthcare professionals, we often ask ourselves how we can offer meaningful support for those who are grieving, and how do we take care of ourselves as we face our grief when we lose patients?

For April’s Optimum Life Continuing Education Series, April Price, RN, CHPN, GC-C, regional director of clinical specialty for hospice, will focus on identifying normal versus complicated grief, defining tools to provide therapeutic counseling in normal grief reactions, and offering self-care tips and growth opportunities for healthcare providers. The Help Me Grieve: A Healthcare Professionals Overview to Evidence-Based Support for the Grieving webinar, which is offered to healthcare professionals for a continuing education credit, will help you be better prepared to help patients and families deal with loss and grief.

Whether you are a friend, family member or trusted healthcare professional, here are some suggestions for what to say and how to comfort someone through grief and loss, and offer a framework of support for grief counseling:

  1. Understand that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief is personal, and it may not always unfold in predictable stages. There’s also no set timetable for grieving.
  2. Know how to talk and listen to someone who is grieving. You might be worried about what to say to someone is grieving, but the truth is it may be more important to listen.

Pullout quote: Don’t be afraid of evocative language. Using the words "your husband died," instead of "you lost your husband can be a helpful technique.

  1. Offer practical assistance. Instead of saying something like, “Let me know what I can do to help," make it easier by saying, "I'm going by the grocery store later. What can I bring for you?"
  2. Allow for plenty of time to grieve and validate that what the person is experiencing is normal.
  3. Watch for warning signs of depression. It’s normal for a grieving person to feel depressed and disconnected from others, but if their symptoms don’t start to fade or if they get worse, it may be a sign of complicated grief or depression. If you suspect depression, encourage the grieving person to get professional help from a licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

There are many types of grief, but this webinar will focus on end-of-life and post-death grief for adults.  It will include a detailed overview of grief and mourning and reactions to loss, as well as how professionals may assess, plan care and support those who are grieving. The webinar will also cover types of grief, such as anticipatory grief, grief triggers, signs of complicated grief and evidence-based interventions you may choose to use with patients and families. We’ll also share some resources for additional study and support for you and other healthcare providers.

The Help Me Grieve webinar will take a deeper dive into identifying and applying evidence-based tools and techniques, as well as:

  • Define and describe grief from a clinical viewpoint, including its types, stages and complications
  • Describe self-care tips for care providers dealing with difficult patient issues
  • Access resources and career growth opportunities for healthcare and mental health providers

To learn more and to register for Help Me Grieve: A Healthcare Professionals Overview to Evidence-Based Support for the Grieving for professional credit, visit Brookdale’s Optimum Life Continuing Education page.


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