State of the Heart Blog
July 19th, 2010
It was a year ago that my wife died. Passed on, passed away or departed, some would say, but there really is no pleasant way to say it. And though I’ve tried not to become emotional about dates on a calendar, anyone and everyone who’s lost someone they love knows how it feels when that “first” birthday, anniversary or Hallmark holiday rolls around. The memories and grief can be heartbreaking, and it’s hard for your friends and family to know what to do or say.
While grief is an emotion we must all learn to live with, it is also a very personal one, and we must each deal with it in our own way. Some lean on their family, their friends or their church while others turn to counselors, books or music. There really is no “how to” manual, but I’ve found it healthy to both look back and look forward, and it’s been comforting to look at lessons from my late wife for inspiration and encouragement.
Mary Jo Hoffman was a remarkable person who was admired for her talent and beauty, but beloved for her faith and kindness. She “lived as an angel among us,” yet for far too brief a time, leaving two precious children at the young age of 44. As her husband, she “made me want to be a better man,” and she had a similar, motivating influence on those around her … to be a better friend, a better mother, a better person. Though supremely talented and accomplished, she considered her role as a mother to be her highest calling, and far more important than work she’d previously done for CEOs, ambassadors and senators. When she saw a need she met it, and without consideration for credit or compliments. Even a tough battle with cancer never shook her faith in God or her character, nor did the battle serve to build character, as some would say … it only revealed it. At the end, she met God with a ready heart, knowing this is not really the end, and without regret of things said or done.
Looking forward, I’m hopeful this next year will be one of new beginnings. That even as we cherish Mary Jo’s memory, my kids and I will begin anew, keep moving forward and live life to the fullest. From time to time, I know we’ll continue to struggle with grief, and I’m told it’s healthy to visit it from time to time. We just can’t live there. We’ve found out in a hard way that life is short and every moment is to be cherished. That we may have goals and dreams, but “life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” And oddly enough, I often look to our last year with Mary Jo even while planning for the future, and remember the last movie our little family saw together before Mary Jo passed. We’d decided to enjoy an afternoon matinee at the Promenade, and the kids were eager to enjoy popcorn and blue raspberry ICEEs, and the new Pixar movie “UP.” It turned out “UP” was about a widower (“Carl”) who goes on a grand adventure even as he struggles with regret and longing. “Carl” often looks through a scrapbook of memories of his beloved wife. And I remember Mary Jo wept through parts of that movie, perhaps with some sadness for her own condition, but I’m sure it was mostly the emotion of her heart’s desire for her family. Later, before she passed, she gave me a gentle reminder of what Carl’s wife had written to him in that scrapbook: “Thanks for a great adventure .. .now go make some new ones.” And I promised her that I would try.
Reading back through what I’ve written, it strikes me that perhaps I selfishly wrote it for or to myself. I don’t know, but like any writer, I hope in some way it may encourage you, the reader. Maybe you’ll make some adventures of your own. I think Mary Jo would like that.
A Sioux City resident, Brent Hoffman is a former city councilman and is the owner of Hoffman & Associates. A widower, he is the father of two children,Silas, 9, and Lydia, 7.
Post by Brent Hoffman, Sioux City Journal, July 18, 2010. Sioux City Journal.com
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July 16th, 2010
Grief lasts as long as it lasts. Although this statement may not seem helpful to you, it is true. It is different for each person. It is important to realize that, while grief and its intensity will subside, most find that it is replaced with a “sweet sadness” that comes at times of remembrance. This is simply the acknowledgement that significant loss has occurred. That the loss, and the person who is gone, matters and affects our lives.
There are many factors that affect how long a person grieves, including age, maturity, personality, physical and mental health, coping style, culture, spiritual and religious background, family background, other stressors and life experiences. The time spent grieving may also depend on how prepared a person was before the loss was experienced.
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July 16th, 2010
Following a death or loss, you may feel empty and numb, as if you are in shock. You may notice physical changes such as trembling, nausea, trouble breathing, muscle weakness, dry mouth, or trouble sleeping and eating.
Feelings of deep sadness and sorrow are common in grief. These and other feelings and thoughts are common. Often, people find themselves engaging in behaviors that are different or unusual, or thinking in ways that are unfamiliar and disturbing. Finding their beliefs challenged in grief, many people experience a kind of “spiritual crisis” following loss.
You may become angry – at a situation, a particular person, or just angry in general. Guilt is a common response which may be easier to accept and overcome by looking at the experience in terms of “regret.” When we think ”I regret I was not in the room when he died” or “I regret I was not able to speak more openly about dying” it is less critical than “I feel guilty about my behavior.”
People in grief may have strange or disturbing dreams, be absent-minded, withdraw socially, or lack the desire to participate in activities that used to be enjoyable. While these feelings and behaviors are normal during grief, they will pass.
In general, grief makes room for a lot of thoughts, behaviors, feelings and beliefs that might be considered abnormal or unusual at other times. Following significant loss, however, most of these components of grief are, in fact, quite normal.
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July 5th, 2010
In celebration of our Nation’s Independence Day and to remember those who have passed on fighting for our freedom, the following are some fun and interesting historical facts:
- The Fourth of July is the federal holiday in the United States that celebrates the country’s adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776. On this day, the colonies declared their independence from Great Britian and the king’s rule.
- On the 4th of July, fireworks display across the sky, as Americans of many races all celebrate the important date in American History. In fact back in 2009, New York City held the biggest fireworks display in the entire United States, firing off a little over 22 tons of pyrotechnics. Others celebrate the holiday with cookouts and picnics displaying the American flag proudly.
- In 1778, George Washington celebrated the fourth of july by giving his soldiers a double ration of rum and a salute via artillery.
- In 1791, the term “Independence Day” was officially recorded for the first time.
- In 1870, Congress decided to make the fourth of july an unpaid holiday.
- Then in 1938, Congress reinstated the frouth of july as a paid holiday.
- In July 1776, the estimated population living in the newly independent nation was 2.5 million.
- In July 2010, the United States population is estimated at 309.6 million.
- There are 31 places nationwide with”liberty” in their name – the State of Iowa having the most concentrated amount.
- Potato salad and potato chips are the most popular food items at Fourth of July barbecues.
- 76 million Americans participate in a barbecue during the 4th of July Holiday.
Information gathered at U.S. Census Burea.gov
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June 28th, 2010
Volunteers often go over looked in small-town farm communities, whether they are the house-wife, the retiree, or just the concerned citizen – there are no parades in their honor, no streamers or balloons. Yet – every Volunteer I’ve ever met says, ‘That’s OK, I get more than I could ever give.’
I think Erma Bombeck put it best when she wrote “So Long Volunteers”
“I had a dream the other night that every volunteer in this land had set sail for another country. I stood smiling on the pier, shouting, “Good-bye, phone committees. God-bye disease-of-the mon. No more getting out the vote. No more playground duty, bake sales, rummage sales, thrift shops, and three-hour meetings.”
As the boat got smaller, I reflected; “serves them right, that bunch of yes people. All they had to do was to put their tongues firmly against the roofs of their mouths and make an”O” sound–no. It would certainly have spared them a lot of grief. Oh, well, who needs them?”
The hospital was quiet as I passed it. The reception desk was vacant. Rooms were devoid of books, flowers, and voices. The children’s wing held no clowns, no laughter. The home for the aged was like a tomb. The blind listened for a voice that never came. The infirmed were imprisoned in wheelchairs that never moved. Food grew cold on trays that would never reach the hungry.
The social agencies had closed their doors–unable to implement their programs of scouting, recreation, drug control; unable to help the retarded, handicapped, lonely and abandoned. Health agencies had signs in their windows: “Cures for cancer, birth defects, multiple sclerosis, heart diseases, etc., have been canceled because of lack of interest.”
The schools were strangely quiet, with no field trips and no volunteer classroom aides. Symphony halls and the museums that had been built and stocked by volunteers were dark and would remain that way. The flowers in churches and synagogues withered and died. Children in day nurseries lifted their arms, but there was no one to hold them in love.
Alcoholics cried out in despair, but no one answered. the poor had no recourse for health care or legal aid. I fought in my sleep to regain a glimpse of the ship of volunteers just one more time. It was to be my last glimpse of a decent civilization.”
No – Volunteering isn’t for Sissies! It’s for that rare breed who’s heart over flows with care and thoughtfulness for their neighbor. If you’re no Sissy, consider Volunteering for State of the Heart or another local organization in your area, it will be the most rewarding thing you ever do!
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June 21st, 2010
Young people need as much time to grieve after the death of someone close, whether they show it or not. The most common issue for a parent is that the child doesn’t ‘seem’ to be distressed so they don’t want to upset them. Children are in a world where they are used to not having control over things and therefore often accept things quicker that doesn’t mean that it is ok with them though. Their feelings can be hidden from people, the child often watches the grown up to see how they are ‘supposed’ to react. It is a very confusing and painful time for a child and they can feel very uncertain of everything. A hug and a honesty is often the best way to help the child cope. However if your in much pain yourself then this can be very difficult.
Very young children may miss the person who has died but they do not really understand that death is permanent. However they will be very sensitive to the reactions of those around them. They may become very anxious and unsettled and will need even more love and attention. Try to get them back into a calm routine as soon as possible.
School-age children begin to understand more about death and become aware that the person is not coming back. They may feel angry and worried as well as sad that the safety of their world has been upset in this way. Younger children may also worry that they caused the death by something naughty they said or did.
Children tend to express their feelings through behaviour rather than words. Rather than looking distressed or crying you may find they are more irritable or energetic, for example. They may wake at night or have nightmares and they may show their anxiety by regressing to more babyish talk and demanding behaviour. Children will need explanations and reassurances about their worries and opportunities to express their feelings through talking with understanding friends and relatives or through play. Encouraging happy memories through looking at photographs or other mementos can be a comfort.
Teenagers are more likely to understand death as an adult does and more likely to be aware of the feelings of others. However they are also likely to find it difficult to express their feelings in words, particularly to other adults and they may bottle up their emotions because they think everyone in the family is already upset enough. As a result their distress may affect their lives in other ways. For example they may become withdrawn or schoolwork may suffer or they may seem more difficult and less cooperative, for example. Make it clear that you understand they are going through a distressing time and that you are there to listen if they want to talk about the person who has died or their own feelings
With the invention of the internet many young people have found that services such as Memorial websites can give them a place to go and remember the person they have lost and share their grief with other friends and family members, without the immediacy of being face to face which most teenagers find uncomfortable.
Or you might consider sending your child to a bereavement camp, such as State of the Heart’s Camp BEARable. A weekend long even geared towards youth and teens.
If you are so distressed by the death yourself that you cannot offer a child or young person the support they need, try to ensure that another relative or family friend is there for them. Routine is vital for children as they can easily feel very nervous of change at this time, ultimately there is no perfect way for you to guide a child through grief and watching them try to cope can be heartbreaking.
It is essential that they know that there is someone who understands their feelings and that they do not have to cope alone.
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June 14th, 2010
For children who loose someone close to them, it can be an overwhelming to figure out how to pick up the pieces of their life one day at a time. Recently in my own world I’ve watched my neighbors struggle with this after the loss of a parent. So it made me incredibly proud to be a part of an agency that recognizes the unique grief that these children are going through at this time, and invite them to our 2010 Camp BEARable for kids.
Here are some facts about Camp BEARable:
- State of the Heart Hospice offers grief support for children
- For ten years, State of the Heart has offered Camp BEARable to area youth
- Youth needing grief support do not have to have an association with hospice care
- Practically all of the youth attending Camp BEARable have no association with hospice
- Camp BEARable is for youth ages six to 15
- Hospices nationwide offer camps for youth
- Hospice officials believe that grief support for youth can help prevent problems later in life
- Each youth is assigned a specially trained adult “buddy” for the weekend camp
- The camp offers a mixture of fun and games mixed with serious dialogue
- In post camp surveys, youth say they feel “safe” expressing themselves at camp
- At camp, youth find that others feel as they do about their loss
- School officials sometimes direct youth to Camp BEARable
- The weekend camp is totally free as are all of the bereavement services
- Hospice grief specialists conduct grief support programs in area schools
- Nearly 500 youth have attended Camp BEARable over the years
- Grief specialists offer weekly grief support sessions for youth
- Grief specialists also provide one on one sessions with grieving youth
- State of the Heart provides books on grief for area school administrators
- Grief specialists can go into schools where a tragic accident or death has occurred
- Music therapy is sometimes used in grief therapy for young people
- Camp BEARable concludes with a “balloon launch” on Sunday afternoon
- Volunteers for Camp BEARable find the experience a great one and enlightening
I encourage you that if you know of a youth in your area that would benefit from grief counseling to contact your local Hospice about grief support. Just like my neighbor kids won’t have to pick up their pieces alone, neither should any child.
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June 7th, 2010
Continuing on in our Music Therapy Theme, I thought it would be a change of pace to just list off some facts and myths about Music Therapy. Enjoy!
- Music Therapy is part of the special care that is hospice. It assists the clinical side of hospice and the bereavement side of hospice care.
- Music therapy is an established health care profession that uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals of all ages.
- Music therapists for hospice are board-certified professionals. They are certified to determine strategies for pain relief and emotional care.
- The music therapist is an important part of the team of hospice caregivers.
- Increasingly, hospices nationwide are seeing the value of music therapy to hospice care. The care is helpful for both families and for the patient.
- Music therapists provide personalized therapeutic sessions for individual hospice patients or whole family groups.
- Music therapists often work hand in hand with hospice bereavement specialists. Sometimes they provide support to those not associated with hospice care, just as bereavement specialists do.
- State of the Heart Hospice is one of two hospices (out of over 100) in Ohio to have a music therapy intern program.
- State of the Heart Hospice normally has two music therapists that serve the agency’s three program areas.
- Music therapists must not only have a degree in music therapy, they must also complete 1,000 hours of clinical training.
- Music therapy is not covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance. State of the Heart picks up the cost of music therapy.
- State of the Heart has a music therapy video which explains more about the music therapy program.
- Presentations to community groups can be made about music therapy.
- Music therapy meets clinical needs such as relaxation, guided imagery, song writing and instrumental improvisation; planning memorial services with favorite family music, creating a family history on CD’s featuring music that has meaning to the family and patient.
- Music therapy promotes wellness; manages stress, alleviates pain, enhances memory, improves communication, promotes physical rehabilitation, and enables the patient to express feelings.
- Music therapy is available to all hospice patients and to others who need the services of the music therapists.