April 27

Can Grieving & Healing Co-Exist? Tribute to Dollie Caruthers (1944-2020)

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I haven’t posted in a few weeks as my mother-in-law passed away. Prior to passing, we had a rough go of trying to get her as comfortable as possible. A memory that stands out is trying to follow the directions of the emergency hospice nurse while crushing meds with warm water to administer by syringe. While receiving instructions, it sounded easy enough but I added too much water, didn’t crush meds well, and then had to administer several times instead of one (again, too much water). Epic fail. Grammy Dollie (what we called her) was alert enough at this stage to let me know that remnants of the pills were sticking to her gums. Wasn’t she going through enough without me adding to her discomfort?

Feeling “stuck” (are you able to relate?)

My spouse moved a comfy chair into her room so I could sit with her. We tried to reposition, offer encouragement, and soothe her as best as we could. Watching a love one suffer with pain creates pain in us too. Once hospice was able to get her comfortable with pain relief, she was no longer alert. I called her pastor to pray over her while my husband contacted his brother and sister-in-law. Thank God they were able and willing to fly despite the pandemic and worries about traveling with all the “stay at home warnings.” My spouse and I each have one brother and thus we have pretty small families. Having John and Loretta come to our home prior to Grammy’s passing and then several days after, was a huge blessing and relief. We tried to make the best of honoring her memory despite not being able to hold a formal funeral service. Conference calls are challenging enough with everyone using these services for work. Can you imagine using them for a funeral?

Tears (Mine and Yours’)

As I write this, tears have been flowing freely which is cathartic and tells me that I need to stand by my recommendation to WRITE whenever we need to process our losses. PRAY to God to provide comfort for you and your loved ones as seeing my family with broken hearts has been depleting. God is the best comforter. TALK about the pain, challenges, blessings, and memories. Remember that there is no special or “right” way to grieve. Sleep and appetite are usually off kilter. Desire to do your regular activities and routines will likely be off. Try not to worry about this and doing the best you can is good enough right now. CREATE whether it be photo collages of your loved one, bible journaling, art journaling, or narrative writing, creating can provide a release, distraction, and also give you a sense of accomplishment. Playing an instrument, making a favorite meal, or designing ANYTHING are all ideas to help comfort you and help you feel productive.

Thank you!

I want to wrap up this tribute post to thank a few people. I’m sure I will forget a few people, and that won’t be intentional. First, VITAS Hospice Service for being with us 24 hours a day during the last week of Grammy’s life. This allowed us to be with her in a different way once medications were correct.

Also would like to thank Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home for allowing us to have a small, brief service for immediate family and setting up Zoom for extended family and close friends. Grammy Dollie looked beautiful which helped us better able to bear seeing her at rest. We know she looks even more beautiful in Heaven. A link to Grammy’s obituary: https://fairfaxmemorialfuneralhome.secure.tributecenteronline.com/obituaries/Dollie-L-Caruthers?obId=12729614#/obituaryInfo

A huge thank you to Pastor Smith and friends at https://famealexandria.com/ for being Grammy Dollie’s spiritual home before she departed to Heaven. We appreciated Pastor Johnson-Joyner for also speaking and Jasmine Williams for singing for us. Grammy’s church family also served us a meal (while masked and gloved). I didn’t feel well to participate but can attest after napping that Grammy Dollie would have loved the food selection. FAME also blessed us with flowers, other meals, and tons of prayers. We are thankful.

More People to Thank

Thank you also for all the family, friends, and neighbors who blessed us with food, flowers, tree plantings, and with kind words. Thank you Aunt Diane and Uncle Cookie for the Peruvian meal, Sharon Harris for Italian Night and for a tree planting, Renee & Franklin for breakfast, lunch dinner and snacks (you spoiled us big time!), our neighbors for lovely flowers, Chris Silva for pizza and wing night plus flowers, Bob and Lauren for pasta night, Marcel Family for sandwiches and pizza, Ms. Dana from AME for Roy Rogers’ chicken, Sally my intern for flowers, Zak & Jeannine for the tree, Ms. Valeria for the tree, the Boyd family for flowers, and lastly for companies for their gifts, condolences and support.

In Conclusion,

Yes, I believe you can heal and grieve at the same time for most losses. I know we tend to do better spiritually and mentally when we can see the blessings behind pain, but what that looks like will depend on the survivor. In our case, we are happy Grammy is no longer in pain and she had a faith filled, blessed life. Your situation may be more complex and if so, please consider getting help. Please turn to your chaplain, friend, family member or a professional coach/counselor to get the help you deserve.

About the author 

Karen Robinson

I am a licensed clinical social worker in the State of Virginia. I work full time with the DOD at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital on an Inpatient Adult Behavioral Health Unit. I recently started a new company with my daughters called Healthrivedream.com. My daughters will help design products geared towards healing while I will be offering coaching and counseling services. I earned both my Bachelor’s (1996) and Master’s (1998) in Social Work at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine. I have served in Community Mental Health in Washington, DC; as a school social worker; adoption services (primarily home studies); personal therapist, and a Federal Government Social Worker (16 years). My full career experience can be found on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/karen-robinson-1277a22b

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  1. Karen,
    This was a beautiful blog posting and a wonderful tribute to your Mother-in-law. I’ve recently gone through a similar experience with my own father’s passing. I felt that it was such a gift (for me) to have been able to be there for him, providing care, at the end of his life. I will forever be grateful for that experience. Like you, I worked very hard to make his last days as comfortable as possible. I appreciated the suggestions that you’ve provided for processing through our grief. I’ll be sharing them with my family members. Thank you!

    Reply

    1. Hi Dana,

      I’m sorry to hear about your father’s passing but happy you found my blog. If you can anything else I can do to help, please let me know. Please let me know if I can add you to my email list so that we can keep in touch. Take good care of yourself! Karen

      Reply

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