A Hospice Story

A Personal Story

Submitted by: Denise Torgerson - November 3, 2017

Last night I was having a conversation with my friend about grief and she asked me what losses were more difficult for me.

I remembered one in particular that I won't go into here, but I really struggled with the feelings and experiences. I really resisted the whole experience and just tried to "get on with it." Of course it didn't work.

Last night I was laying in bed and remembering this time of my life and wondering what was it about that grieving experience that was so hard for me. Why was it so confusing.

Then I realized I had not started volunteering at Hospice yet. I had not had access to grief education.

As I look back on those days I realize now that my grief experience was actually normal, that all of those emotions were common emotions in the grief work. It sure didn't feel like that then though.

I didn't know then that anger, fear, and desperate sadness were appropriate feelings. I didn't know that if I leaned into those feelings and allowed myself to explore them, I would be able to move through the grief with more self compassion.

Instead I resisted. I didn't talk about it, I kept myself really busy and every time tears came up, I would stuff them down. I kept my grief a secret, always putting on a good show for everyone around me. It was exhausting. It was confusing – a dark and lonely time.

Stephen Jenkinson says "we don't need grief counselors, we need grief educators."

I can see the truth of that statement. If I had known then the things I know now, I would have been able to honor my process instead of run from it. If I had reached out to someone instead of isolating myself I would have been able to talk through the feelings and be able to hold them in a more compassionate way. If I knew that what I was experiencing was normal for people who are grieving, I would have been able to advocate for myself more. If I knew that keeping busy was just a distraction, I would have given myself the time and the space needed to process, reflect and ritualize my grief work.

I have had many losses since that one and yes, I understand that grief work is difficult work, but now I don't resist it. I let those feeling in and feel them. I talk about my sadness and my anger and all of those so called negative feelings. I consider my grief work to be sacred. I grieve because I love. And as I move through the dark emotions I hold space for the remembering and the loving that I gave and that I received. It's not easy, but I do not struggle with the struggle anymore. That is the teaching for me I think. Don't struggle with the struggle. Give it space and time and compassion.

In my time at Hospice I have talked to many people about their grieving experience and they are so relieved when I give them permission to feel what they are feeling and give their thoughts a voice.

I watch people come out of confusion and begin to trust themselves. It is an honour.