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Updated: Nov 14, 2021

"Give sorrow words." - William Shakespeare

The moment our loved one passes away, we begin to grieve and mourn. It is very beneficial to begin this process soon after the passing. When a person dies at home on hospice, it is the responsibility of the hospice organization to help facilitate this process. Usually, it is the nurse who performs the pronouncement and as that person, I begin to hold space for the process.

This is the beginning of memorialization, better known as Grief Tending; lending time and space to tend to grief in a group setting. The group can be a few people at the bedside, or many people who gather in the home once they hear about the passing of their loved one. Each person has an opportunity to express their grief in their own personal way. Some offer food. Others pray or start organizing the funeral arrangements. Others simply start conversations about their loved one and how they feel about them or their loss. These expressions all have a common purpose, starting the grieving process and allowing us to mourn.

In most cases, the families immediately draw on their own religious and cultural backgrounds to begin the mourning tradition. Grief tending brings together ancient wisdom and ritual, as well as modern practices. I have had the honor and privilege to witness many different cultural rituals and to facilitate the process whereby feelings can be shared, expressed and revered.

I remember my experience years ago, with a Vietnamese Soldier. In that culture, it is believed that when a person passes away, his life has not ended — his afterlife begins. Looking around the room, I noticed a bag next to my now-deceased patient, filled with personal articles such as his clothing, and a small amount of cash set aside for his departure. A priest or minister then offered prayers before he was taken away.

All of these traditions are articulations of grief. They make those who complete them feel less anxious about their loss. Alongside grief rituals, I offer encouragement for loved ones to share memories and express feelings.

Tending to Grief is considered one of the best ways to be successful at moving past the grieving period, allowing us to fully mourn our loved ones.

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