Monday, April 15, 2019

GOOD GRIEF, "Author's Note"

Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation

Who am I? I am you. Who are you? You are me. We are ONE — connected through the drama of living and loving, working and playing, caring and sharing, birth and death, grief and loss, joy
and sorrow. Yes, we are ONE — engaged in the story of life, and as time passes, we learn to celebrate who we are and who we are
becoming as we continue on our path — our individual journey :
the survivors, recovering and creating a new story.
Cheryl A. Barrett, Nurse Coach, Author
We all experience loss during our time on earth: loss of a spouse, parent, child, pet, home, jobs, etc. We are born and grow to understand the impermanence of our existence with no life expectancy date. However, most of us go through life with little or no thought to our mortality, making no preparation for our departure or preparation as the survivor of a departed loved one or the loss of something significant to us such as a home, pet, or job.
The impact of any loss depends on the value, worth, or significance of a specific loss, as assigned by each person. The experience of loss is personal and impacts the mind, body, and spirit of the primary person involved, as well as a network of others: immediate family, extended family, friends, colleagues, and community.

Your loss begins with great sorrow, but there is hope as you courageously take the first step on your healing journey. I was reminded of this by the saying in one of the sympathy cards I received:
To know sorrow is to acknowledge the love     that was yours…
To carry on with a heart full of memories         is wholly and lovingly human…
To heal, day by day, is to build a bridge of love           that will reach far beyond time and into forever.
–– Ambassador Cards
You may wonder what gives me the right to write about grief and loss. I do not have a psychology degree nor have I done extensive research in the field of death and dying. I have not written books, been quoted by experts or appeared on a TV show. I am an ordinary person — one who has recently lost a husband and gone through the process of mourning his death. One who has struggled with putting the shattered pieces of my heart and life back together… a survivor of grief and loss.
Besides being a grieving woman, I do have experience with death, grief, and loss. I am a nurse with over 30 years of caring for patients, families, and loved ones. I have worked as a nurse in a variety of jobs: as a bedside care nurse in the hospital on a medical/surgical unit, telemetry unit, and intensive care unit (ICU); as a professor of nursing, teaching in a college and university in the classroom and the clinical rotation sites in hospitals; as an administrative supervisor in a hospital; as an editorial director for a nursing publication; as an educator and director of education in home care, and now as a nurse coach and mentor.

Through the years of nursing at the bedside, especially in the critical care area, I have had the honor to participate in the grieving and loss process with many patients and families. I have witnessed families face the sudden, and often traumatic, loss of a loved one and not know what to do, where to begin, what is the right thing to do, whom to call and more. I have held family members as they cried and when there were no tears, gently provided the comfort of touch and caring.
I have always had an inner need to comfort others. Here are just two stories of my experience with death and caring that have touched me and helped prepare me for my own journey through grief and loss.

One story involved a patient who came into the ICU with a sudden heart attack. The prognosis was grim, at best. The son stood by the bedside, eyes gazing downward at his father, eyes filled with hope of recovery even as he was wringing his hands.

I started talking to him. He revealed that he did not get to tell his father, before he died, some things he regretted.

I brought a chair and put it by the head of the bed, next to his father’s head and said, “Patients like this who can’t speak and who look like they cannot comprehend anything, are often reported to still hear things.”

I suggested he sit in the chair and tell his father what he wanted to say now. As I pulled the curtain and left him alone with his father, I saw him sit in the chair, lean closely to his father and start whispering in his ear.

About two days later, when I was off duty, I got a call from my unit that this patient died. I quickly got in the car, came to the hospital and sat in the waiting room with the family, including this son. The son was the last to leave. He felt lost, with nowhere to go.

So, we went across the street to the restaurant and sat and talked for a little while. He told me he was glad to have had the chance to tell his father what he had on his mind. We parted, and he went home. I was a stranger allowed to participate in the personal grief of another and to witness his suffering…not knowing then that I would also have strangers participate in my own grief and suffering.
Another story is of a patient who was dying after a long illness. As an ICU nurse, I have developed intuition, a kind of “knowing” when a patient’s condition worsens. I thought, he’s not going to make it through the night.

Indeed, that was the case with this gentleman. His wife was at the bedside, and he was connected to many wires and medication lines. I could see from the monitor how the heart rate was changing, losing stability and slowing — its bleeps farther and farther apart. It just happened to be about the time that the wife usually went home.

Understanding what I saw happening with the patient, I asked her,
“Would you like to be with your husband when he passes on?”

She said, “Yes.”

So, I told her I was not sure, but this is what I saw and maybe she should stay. He passed away not long after that. His wife was by his side in the lounge chair I brought in for her, with the patient’s side rail down, and she was holding his hand, stroking it gently.

The next step was to call the son, which I did.

When I asked his wife if she would like to stay with me while I performed some final care for him…and participate herself, she said, “Yes.”

Postmortem care is not for everyone. But, I was led to ask her. As we washed her husband and put a clean gown on him, she gazed lovingly at him and stroked his brow. She told me the story of her husband: what a good father he was, how she loved his beautiful blue eyes and more. On several occasions during our time together, I left the room to go cry, overwhelmed with emotion. One day in the future, I would do this gentle care for my own husband upon his death, and use the image of this experience to draw strength.

Nothing in my training and experience prepared me for when it was my turn to face a significant death and go through the grieving process. I went to school for nursing for six years — a challenging pursuit culminating with a graduate degree and have taught nursing students in the academic setting. I am an Integrative Nurse Coach and Transpersonal Coach officially recognized by the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA). I am also board-certified by the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC) as a Nurse Coach. I learned theory and process about grief and loss during these years and have, of course, participated in the lives of those who have crossed my path in health care situations.

None of the textbook stuff really helped. Oh, I remembered the Stages of the Grieving Process and what the coping strategies were, but that was not what I needed.
What I needed I could not verbalize. I was a strong person. I could handle this. I did not want to expose my vulnerability — my neediness. That’s not who I was. But who I was…was about to change drastically. I was no longer a wife, partner, friend, lover, and more. I became a widow and progressed along a journey into the unknown…as you will read in this book.
I’ll share with you my personal story of loss and the stress management and self-care strategies that I identified along the way through the healing process, strategies that can be personalized and applied to any loss.

We are unique individuals with unique needs and talents to implement self-care healing practices. We grieve and we love… in our own individual way. The journey through this healing process is not measured in time, but in each heartbeat and in each breath.


With her permission, I will be serializing here nurse Cheryl Barrett's valuable book on transcending grief. I had the pleasure of being her coach and editor through my Write Your Book with Me enterprise. 

Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD

 Perhaps the easiest way to obtain a copy of her book is through this
Amazon link: 

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