Wednesday, September 1, 2010


When my grandmother died last October my grandfather went through a serious depression. Emphasis on the word SERIOUS. My mother feared that he would not make it. His mental state was so weak that she had to commit him for fear he would commit suicide. He lamented that he was unable to go on without my grandmother. Some days I would call him and say, "Hey Grandad, how ya doing?" and he would answer in a voice that would break my heart, "I'm not doing so well today."

Have you ever heard someone speak to you in a tone that was totally unlike them, and as a result completely unfamiliar (and a little scary) to you? For months, this is how my grandfather sounded. He couldn't bear to be alone (remember he and my grandmother were married for over 50 years). It took a lot for me to talk to him and keep engaged.

I share this with you because as occupational therapists we have the opportunity to work with the families of our patients. Depending on the situation, the family may know that the patient will die soon. Or, perhaps the patient has suffered a recent injury and the injury resulted in a loss. The loss can be that the person is no longer able to participate in meaningful activities. The person, and perhaps their family, may experience the grieving process. They will grieve, and as the health care professional, you have to counsel them while providing health services. Sometimes this means listening, sometimes allowing them to cry, sometimes allowing them to feel angry or hurt. This encompasses many things. This is the human service side of occupational therapy and it's very important.

If you've ever suffered a loss think about all the wonderful things people said to you to help you feel better or get through that difficult time. Also, think of all the terrible things people said to you. If you know someone who suffered a loss think of all the wonderful and terrible things you may have said to them. It's important to channel those memories when dealing with clients during these times. I believe it makes us better health care professionals.

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