When a person receives a serious diagnosis, his or her life is changed forever. So, too, the family members. The illness affects everyone. Even when the disease is conquered, as with cancer survivors, a special understanding of life develops as a result of having walked that path.
The beginning of the path almost always starts with grief. Certainly there is fear. And often anger. But the bedrock is grief. Sadness at the realization that life may truly be moving toward its closure.
Below are some thoughts to help your family process the natural feelings of grief and loss that arise in the context of a serious illness.
A serious illness brings up feelings of loss. Grief is a natural response.
For the person who is ill There are several deep losses and challenges to address:
The loss of his or her self-image as a healthy individual
The loss of previous roles as the illness saps time and energy: career, friend, spouse
The loss of “forever,” the human tendency to think we are immortal
Fear or anxiety about the process of dying
Concern about what awaits “on the other side”
For family members
Deep sorrow arises as it becomes clear that
your loved one may be leaving you permanently. The future together is limited.
you will no longer be a daughter/son, spouse, or sibling.
the disease may cause your loved one suffering that is difficult to witness.
your life may change radically, especially if you are to be the primary caregiver. You will need to give up or modify other roles in your life, either short-term or long-term.
Acknowledging these losses is the first step to processing your grief. Even if the losses have not happened yet, “anticipatory grief” is a normal response. It is a part of coming to terms with the unthinkable. It’s not disloyal or weak. We simply try on possible futures to get acquainted with the feelings. To practice coping. (For information about grief following the actual death of a loved one, see our article about mourning.)
Are you or your loved one grieving as you think about the future?
There is a definite balancing act with grief. The challenge is to live fully in the present while getting ready for a possible, and unwelcome, event in the future. For your relative, it is a time of facing fears and evaluating his or her life. He or she may need to prepare to say good-bye. Once physical issues such as pain or nausea are handled, it may help your loved one to concentrate on
resolving family conflict
Healing wounded relationships can help ease the sadness. In fact, a serious diagnosis often puts past grudges in perspective. When thinking about never seeing each other again, estranged family members forgive and reconnect. They frequently regret wasting precious years apart that can never be recaptured.
plans for achievable goals
Everyone needs hope, things to look forward to. Does your loved one have a bucket list? Is there a special event he or she would like to attend? A project to wrap up?
improving quality of life
On the whole, it is our daily experience that creates quality of life. How much of your loved one’s day is spent doing things that truly bring joy? The more you know about your loved one’s preferences, the more you can emphasize those pleasant experiences.
Staying close and staying “here”
For family caregivers, anticipatory grief involves a delicate balance of staying close to your loved one and enjoying whatever time remains. At the same time, if this truly is a terminal condition, you need to prepare for a future without your loved one.
Enhance the quality of your time together
Often what a seriously ill person needs most is a good listener. They need someone who will acknowledge concerns without jumping to fix things or improve them. Make time to just be together. People struggling with physical challenges move slower. It helps if you can gear to your loved one’s pace and just “be.” Join them in smelling the roses! Your calm and loving presence will be healing for everyone.
Safeguard your own well-being
Don’t feel you must spend every moment together. You cannot fill your days with caregiving and do nothing else. It’s not healthy. You are still in the land of the well. Make sure you stay there!
Give yourself breaks. Even if it’s just 20 minutes on the porch enjoying the garden or reading a book.
Get help. Now and then you have to get fully away from the house and all your responsibilities. This is the thing that family caregivers comment on most, once their loved ones are gone. In hindsight, they realize that they should have taken more breaks. It wasn’t selfish. And it was easier to do than they let themselves think. Learn from their experience!
Connect with friends. Phone, Facebook, or e-mail is the easiest. But nothing beats in-person meetings. Seeing a smile. Touching a hand. Sharing a deep belly laugh.
Talk about subjects besides caregiving. You are more than a family caregiver. And there will come a time when you are no longer a family caregiver. Be sure to stay in touch with those other sides of yourself.
Spend time with children in your life. Their freshness reminds us that life is a circle. People die and people are born.
Engage in activities that are pleasurable in and of themselves. You will be a better caregiver for taking time off. You will come back refreshed. You also will be able to process your grief more effectively if you give yourself opportunities to be relieved of it from time to time.
Don’t forget your own health. Family caregivers are notorious for ignoring their own problems. In fact, it’s quite common for a family member to have a medical emergency after a loved one passes simply because they did not attend to their own wellness. Keep those doctor and dentist appointments! You do no one any favors by sacrificing your health for the care of your loved one.
Grief can turn into depression
The blue spiral of depression is a common “side effect” of serious illness. For example, more than three-quarters of patients with advanced cancer are clinically depressed. Family members are also affected. They are far more likely to be depressed than people the same age who are not caregiving.
Depression can be treated
Depression that stems from a pending loss is understandable. But it can make the daily process of living quite difficult. This goes for the person who is ill. It also applies to family caregivers. Fortunately, depression is very treatable. You and your loved one have enough to do coping with a serious illness. You don’t need to grapple with the downward spiral of depression! Talk with your doctor.
Signs of depression
Do these symptoms ring a bell? Doctors diagnose depression if a person has experienced four or more symptoms nearly every day for the last two weeks:
fatigue, listlessness, lack of energy
inability to remember, concentrate, or think clearly
lack of motivation
no joy in activities one used to find pleasurable
withdrawal from others
changes in eating patterns (eating more or less than usual)
changes in sleeping patterns (sleeping more or less than usual)
an increase in the use of cigarettes, alcohol, or other mood-altering substances
feelings of sadness and bouts of crying
feelings of hopelessness or despair
feelings of worthlessness
feelings of guilt
thoughts of suicide
Talk with the doctor
It is not difficult to see how serious illness might bring about these symptoms! Many of the physical signs are things your relative might experience from his or her disease. If your loved one is expressing feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, contact the doctor. Even more so if your relative talks about guilt or thoughts of suicide. Emotional suffering is every bit as painful as physical suffering. The doctor will want to help you find ways to fix it.
If you as the caregiver are experiencing four or more of these symptoms, let your doctor know. Depression is not inevitable. It is a condition that can and should be treated. Free up your energy so you can focus on the other tasks before you.
If depression seems to be in the picture, what are the barriers to getting treated? How might you overcome them?
Antidepressants are very effective. And they are not addicting. Unfortunately, they do not work right away. It takes several weeks before you will start to feel the benefits. And they do have side effects.
You may need to go through a trial and error process. Sometimes it takes trying a few different medicines to find the best one for your body.
Your loved one may not have time for this exploring. You might want to ask the health care provider if there are medications that are more likely to work, and to work quickly.
Antidepressants seem to work best when combined with “talk therapies.” Expressing our feelings is an important part of breaking the negative cycle of depression. Counselors are trained to help their clients get to the heart of a problem very quickly.
Talking with nonprofessionals can also be beneficial. Support groups are a powerful way to work through your feelings. Plus, you can gain useful tips from others who are in situations similar to your own. Those who are housebound can check out online support groups. Even talking with a good friend or family member can be helpful.
What form of “talk therapy” seems most realistic for your situation?
Caring for a seriously ill family member can lend a tinge of blue to the holidays. It may be sadness that cherished family rituals are no longer possible. Or worry that this year will be the last for your loved one. Here are some ways to handle these common stressors.
It doesn’t have to be “all or nothing.” Even if some family customs are no longer realistic, embrace what’s still possible. And let go of the guilt-laden “shoulds.”
Keep it simple. Perhaps you still gather at Mom and Dad’s, but order a precooked, take-out meal. Or have everyone contribute to the meal. Try to capture the essence in a way that no one person shoulders a big burden.
Focus on the most meaningful activities. Your energy and your loved one’s energy are limited! Pick one ritual that truly gives you that holiday lift and consider any others an “extra gift” of the season.
Acknowledge the anticipatory grief. You’re not crazy if pulling out your holiday sweater brings on a bout of tears.
A holiday can sharpen awareness of life’s impermanence. You may feel grief about the losses you have already experienced. And grief as you realize your loved one may not be with you next year. These feelings are normal. If possible, share them with someone who understands.
Celebrate your loved one’s presence. Trying to “make this holiday the best” may distract you from spending quality time with your relative. Instead, take the opportunity to cherish what you have now, and revel together in shared memories of holidays past.
Maintain your normal self-care routines. In this season of extra stress, it’s especially important to get enough sleep, eat sensibly, and exercise regularly.
I really enjoyed my employment with solace hospice. The team of nurse's, CNA's, social workers and chaplain s work amazing together, always working as a team, including the administrative team.Maggie Welsh my supervisor is someone who has an open door policy. If you need to talk, she will drop everything she is doing without hesitation. She offers a listening ear, direction, encouragement and support. She is full of wisdom and loves teaching other's.I cannot begin to tell you how supportive she has been. The integrity she carries and dedication to not only her team but her employees.The owner, Thomas always made time to acknowledge his employees and constantly shows his apprection for each of them. I'm very grateful for the experience I have gained working for solace hospice. It's been a true honor working for this company.Shanna Arias
As an Aging Specialist, a Senior Resource Center and over 20 years experience with Seniors “Solace Hospice” has excelled in comfort care and palliative care! They have been one of our preferred providers for years in Arizona. Their involvement in the Industry, their caring staff and their professional approach is appropriate when families need them most. Costel Roman the Director of Business Relations is the biggest advocate I have met in his Industry. Solace Hospice you are appreciated by thousands of families and Senior Living Communities in Arizona.
We could not be more grateful to Solace Hospice and their staff for taking care of our loved one, even though he was on service a short time. Everyone was so sweet to us and him and were very responsive to our needs and requests. The staff was skilled, informative, and available at any time of the day or night. Most importantly, they care about us. They spend time with us. We laugh together and cry together. We always looked forward to visits. Thank y'all for everything.
I have written only a handful of reviews in my lifetime. I felt this one necessary. I have worked as an employee for Solace Hospice in Phoenix for over a year and a half. The genuine care, respect and compassion for our patients and families is outstanding. Today, our team received a generous gift card from the owner, Thomas, for Thanksgiving. Even more impressive….He and his family stayed up until 3 am cooking a homemade Thanksgiving feast for us. He walked in wearing a suit jacket, sat down and enjoyed the meal along side of us like family with little rest. This is not the first time our owner and management team have gone above and beyond to make us feel appreciated or to help out in difficult times. Thank you! Our office staff does an amazing job of multitasking behind the scenes and I truly wonder how they get it all done. Our Executive Director, Maggie, (whom I’ve nicknamed work horse) is an exceptionally hard worker whom won’t ask for a thing she wouldn’t do herself and more often does so without asking at all. She is intelligent, kind, fair and very supportive. She wears many hats well and makes it look easy. Our nursing staff is incredibly competent, compassionate and juggle the day to day challenges well. Our CNA’s are some of the hardest workers I have ever had the pleasure of working with and no matter how busy things get, they always manage to get everything done. Our Social worker, Shanna, is a wealth of knowledge and is always willing to help out. Our Chaplains are kind, down to earth, compassionate and funny. Our volunteer coordinator, Barbara, is always smiling, knowledgeable and fun. Our marketer, Costel, bends over backwards to meet the needs of patients and families. I am proud and honored to be a part of such an incredible team and have never enjoyed a job more. Thank you to all of the Solace Hospice Team!
I had a great working experience with Solace Hospice and all of the staff I have encountered, open communication and great quality in their service. The people we worked with so far starting with Costel Roman, the RNs Gina and Heidi and amazing social worker Shana enabled us to continue to work with them and refer Solace Hospice.
Been working with Solace Hospice for over a year and never cease to amaze me! They cater to each individuals needs and go beyond the scope of service. Stephanie, Sammy, Diane and Costel are doing a fantastic job, giving 110% of love and hard work and making sure everything that it’s needed arrives within 24 hours. If you’re looking for a great Hospice give them a chance, they will never disappoint.
I can’t say enough about Solace Hospice. The level of care and attention to personal detail is so much higher than the other hospice company I dealt with. My family recently experienced the loss of our mother followed by our father in fairly close succession. All I can say is thank you Solace and I wish I had discovered you sooner. My mom’s passing was handled by another company. I can tell you they are not the same. Solace operates with a premium degree of care and compassion during such a difficult time
I cannot thank Solace Hospice enough for the amount of love and support they have provided my family with during this hard time. They were attentive, caring, informative and overall extremely experienced in this field.A special thanks to Maggie, Bevery, Katie, Janet, Diana, (just a few of the many) for the help you provided.Thank you all so much!!!Enea
I work with Solace Hospice and they are fantastic. Costel Roman from Solace Hospice is very professional, high ethics and integrity, and also he is respected and well known by the health community in Arizona. Simply put, it's a pleasure to work with Costel - I strongly recommend him!
I would like to express my gratitude to Costel Roman - Director of Business Relation at Solace Hospice, Thomas Fedzin - Owner of Solace Hospice during a difficult time in my life. There is never an easy moment to loose a loved one. Costel Roman and Solace Hospice have helped my mother to go to Heaven and be with the angels peacefully. God bless all of you for being by my side!!!
Solace Hospic is Definitely #1 Hospic in Arizona a team that’s Compassionate towards the needs of not only patients but owners and also caregivers. Costel Roman is so Professional and always gets the job done . Ask him what he can’t do he will tell you what he can do to make the experience working with solace comfortable as possible. Solace will always be my go to Hospic.
I've worked with multiple staff members at Solace Hospice and each and everyone is so incredible passionate about caring for the community. As a wife of a Director of Nursing at an assisted living facility, I hear often about how important great care -- Solace provides great care!
I absolutely LOVE working with Costel and and Beverly!! Costel (AKA Roman) has excellent communication and I value his team immensely! I highly recommend this team if you are looking for a hospice company with great communication skills, friendly faces, and caring hearts!
As a nurse and the owner of several assisted livings, I have had many encounters with different hospices.Solace Hospice has been amazing and has gone above and beyond for my patients and their families! Always helpful, always receptive to the patients needs and always there when needed.Thank you Solace for the outstanding care and dedication your company and your staff provides.
We are so glad and relieved to have met Costel Roman of Solace Hospice.When he came to our assisted living homes and introduced himself he sat with us and explained Solace Hospice’s vision and approach to compassionate high quality care.We were very pleased to hear that residents and families needs are above all else.These past months we worked along side them with a few of our families in our homes .We cannot praise Costel and all of Solace’s staff Enough on the quality of care,professionalism demonstrated and the compassion showed by all of Solace’s staff to the families and our team.We will only recommend a company to our families if we know and experienced first hand that they are among the best in their profession.Congratulations to Solace for putting together an outstanding team. You guys definitely exceeded 5 stars! Luis Pescador.
We were recently reintroduced to Solace Hospice by Costel Roman and Jesse Watson, two of their community liasons, and in the process were impressed with their client-focused service. The biggest selling point for us as a group home is that they were not going to be a hospice that simply stopped fighting for a client and allowed them to die. Many of our residents and their families initially are fearful of the word “hospice” and typically think it means a death sentence. Many of them are not ready to give up the good fight and Solace has been a partner with our home to ensure the resident, their family, and our group homes are all respected and active partners in the continued care and needs of the resident. Everyone from their intake staff, RNs, and CNAs was compassionate, caring, and dutiful in their tasks. Special mention goes to the Nurse assigned to our home, Sabrina. She helped us guide the resident and their family through the difficult process of passing away, and her knowledge and compassion for my resident and her family will never be forgotten. Owning three different group home locations has given me plenty of experience and exposure to many different Hospice companies, but without a doubt, Solace Hospice is one of the best. I can not recommend them enough, whether you be a group home, a family member of a loved one, or someone looking to work at a hospice company. Thank you Costel, your team provided me much peace of mind. I look forward to continue to working with your team.
I cannot begin to describe the gratitude and appreciation my family feels about the experience we had with Solace Hospice. I didn’t know quite what to expect at the time when my father was on your service. My father had such great care! My concerns were quickly relieved. Thank you for the kindness and compassion you have given to us and for the genuine concern for my father and for our family. We sincerely appreciate your tireless effort to care for all your patients and their loved ones, and your eagerness to assist at every turn.
I own 5 assisted living group homes around the Phoenix area. I am always relieved when my residents and their families choose Solace Hospice to help their loved one. I can always rely on Thomas and his staff to take care of my residents. They interact incredibly well with my caregivers and offer assistance 24/7. And they back it up. There have been numerous times when we needed some help from Solace in the middle of the night. Someone from Solace would come out to the home without hesitation and take care of everything. Thank you Thomas for running such a wonderful company!
Great professional help during a hard time. Thank you for making things easier to manage during our time of need. They gave our loved one lots of comfort any time he needed it. Which added relief to me as I knew he was in good hands. Thank you so much Thomas and staff!
As a care coordinator for multiple assisted living homes, I am grateful for the opportunity to have Solace Hospice care for our residents. Working closely with Thomas and his staff Is always a pleasure. All around, a great experience.
Thomas and staff were always friendly and available to help us. We learned so much about our Client’s situations. They are definitely very knowledgeable and confident of what they do to help our clients in our group home meet their needs.