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You can make a song and dance about loss

The ancient Greeks and Romans had sumptuous feasts. In Ethiopia, people sing and dance. Aboriginals have a smoking ceremony and, in New Orleans, they play music and all that jazz!

We all deal with death in different ways.

Unfortunately, it is a fact of life for most long-term carers as a result of often working with people who are elderly or who have a terminal illness.

And coping with the loss can be difficult, particularly if you are unprepared. That does not mean you shouldn’t feel grief. Of course, you will and that is especially true if a strong emotional attachment has been developed.

Talk to others

In fact, the strength of the bond formed with the people under your care can be one of the most rewarding elements of your role. This relationship can also extend to other members of their family; who rely upon you for support at times.

So, let’s address a few things about being a care worker and coping with loss:

  • It’s ok to feel sadness.

  • Grief is natural.

  • You can be angry or frustrated.

  • Don’t bottle up your feelings.

And DO talk to others, especially if you begin to feel overwhelmed by the sense of loss. Your personal well-being matters greatly and please remember we provide you with the means to access:

  • Support networks and forums.

  • Members of an approachable HR team

  • Counselling advice - for matters such as bereavement.

You should also be aware that feelings of loss can begin when the person in your care is still alive. This is known as "anticipatory grief" and occurs when the person has a terminal illness or a progressive condition like dementia and they appear to be “gone” before their time.

A slight consolation is some evidence suggests that carers who experience anticipatory grief may cope better after the person dies.

In terms of preparation, if possible, you should talk to the person in your care about their end-of-life decisions. Research has found it helps you to be more emotionally ready for the death.

While the conversation can be difficult or awkward at first at first, it’s often the case your client will appreciate being able to talk about the end of their lives, especially on the topics of putting their affairs in order or planning a funeral service.

For example, would you not like to choose a song to be played for your own funeral? What if no-one asks!

According to the Co-op’s Funeral Music Charts, the top choices are:

  1. My Way - Frank Sinatra

  2. Time to Say Goodbye - Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman

  3. Over the Rainbow - Eva Cassidy

  4. Wind Beneath My Wings - Bette Midler

  5. The Lord is My Shepherd - Psalm 23

  6. We’ll Meet Again - Vera Lynn

  7. All Things Bright and Beautiful – Hymn

  8. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life - Monty Python

  9. Abide with Me - Hymn  

  10. Unforgettable - Nat King Cole

It should be no surprise that “My Way” is still Number One with the lyrics

“I've lived a life that's full. I've traveled each and every highway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.”

Ease the pain

Your way of preparing for and coping with the loss of a life will contribute strongly to your on-going well-being and ability to provide the highest levels of care. If someone in your care dies or you begin to feel the onset of grief, there are some things you can do to ease the pain. For example:

  • Try to make time to do something for yourself that you enjoy.

  • Read a book, watch a movie, bake a cake!

  • Take some exercise, such as walking or swimming.

  • Chat with your friends and family.

  • Focus as much as you can on the positives, including happier memories.

You may also take some heart from the poem by Henry Scott Holland that includes:

“Death is nothing at all.

“I have only slipped away to the next room.

“I am I and you are you.

“Whatever we were to each other,

“That, we still are.”

Or the words of John Cleese in his eulogy of fellow Monty Python member Graham Chapman:

“Graham Chapman, co-author of the ‘Parrot Sketch’, is no more. He has ceased to be, bereft of life, he rests in peace, he has kicked the bucket, hopped the twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the Great Head of Light Entertainment in the sky.”

Poetry, laughter, tears … there are many different ways to cope with loss; as long as you're prepared. And, if it helps or is a matter of tradition, it’s ok to make a song and dance about it, too!

Being a carer is not easy, so we created a free guide to coping with home care for you to download. Simply click below.

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