Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Power of Kind Acts for Broken Hearts

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries, and it is marked in different ways. In Finland and Estonia it is celebrated as “Friends Day,” where friendships are honored and friends remembered. In the United States, it is most associated with romantic relationships. Like all holidays or special days, the first Valentine’s Day after the death of a partner may trigger emotions, or, like cupid’s arrow, it may be a day that stings.
Grief doesn’t have a beginning, middle and end. Grief may be lifelong. There is no promise we will stop missing our mother, our father, our spouse, our best friend. And for some of us, we don’t want to. The concept of grief as something we experience in stages provides hope through structure for those whose suffering is great, who may be immobilized, and can’t move on. When we are suffering acutely, it is a comfort to hear the assurance that a normal day is just ahead, that we will again find pleasure in simple things like friends and food and walks.
Grief is personal, and offering advice or support or relief can put us in awkward territory. We deserve to grieve in ways that feel right, that express what needs expressing, that align with our loss. There is no stopping grief, no shortening its duration. But steps can be taken to make it manageable, to understand it, to understand ourselves.
During 33 years of providing hospice care, thousands of individuals seek support while they grieve by attending grief support groups, or talking one-on-one with our grief support counselors. At grief support groups, there is comfort in the experiences of others. “She knows what I’m feeling!” “I understand what he means!”
Hospice of Michigan offers regular group support in the Southeastern Michigan (Ann Arbor, or Wayne, Oakland or Macomb Counties). These small groups are led by experienced grief support counselors, and they provide a comfortable setting to share experiences, or gain insights from others experiencing loss.
For many, Valentine’s Day can be difficult as they face the day without the person they loved. But you can help. With Valentine’s Day upon us, consider it Kindness Day, and offer Valentines of Kindness to loved ones who are grieving. We can bring joy to loved ones, whether it is our mother who is missing our father, or a friend who has lost a spouse, or a child who has lost a grandmother.
  • Checking In. Thoughtful expressions of interest, concern, “Just thinking about you,” mean a great deal.
  • Gifts of time: A Valentine can be delivered in endless forms: “I’d like to invite you to a movie.” “Please join me for lunch.” “I’ll pick you up. If you’d like, we can run errands together.”
  • Gifts of labor: Make dinner, do laundry, walk the dog, take the car for an oil change, shovel snow, make/return phone calls, write thank you notes.
  • Gifts of food: homemade cookies, jams, a delivery of organic fruit, a carry out from a favorite restaurant.
  • Gifts of ideas: Deliver a selection of books (on topics of interest) from the local library, a quote book on grief, an invitation to attend a book club meeting, a lecture, or a live performance.
  • Cards: The sky is the limit to the creative ideas that can be expressed with a handmade or store bought card.
  • Gifts of Empathy: “I’d like to hear how you’re feeling these days.” “If you’d like to share your experience, I’d love to hear what it has been like to live without your loved one.”
  • Compassion and Patience. It is a gift to understand another’s pain, and to have compassion for them and their experience. Compassion requires patience, and the ability to accept changes that come as a result of loss.
  • Deliver Valentines and all gifts in loving ways and with a patient heart. Remember love is the gift.
  • Give without expectation of reward. Generous acts are gifts to ourselves. Be conscious of, and enjoy, the time spent delivering kindness to others.
Filling an empty space on someone’s calendar with a joyful surprise, or a thoughtful conversation – may fuel another hour or another day. Don’t underestimate the power of kind acts to heal broken hearts.
Happy Valentine’s Day!!

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