There is greater significance to Memorial Day (May 30) than the start of the summer season. Memorial Day is a time to publicly show our respect for those who have lost their lives in defense of our country and to offer support to grieving loved ones.
As we mark Memorial Day this year, we are a country involved in conflicts abroad. The ongoing fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to take a toll on our nation. Serious injuries and the untimely deaths of our brave service men and women remind us that life is precious.
Hospice and palliative care professionals – who help families cope with loss on a daily basis – share ideas on how to honor this sacrifice on Memorial Day and every day:
1. Acknowledge the day with a phone call or card to the family; tell a story you remember about the service member who has died and/or ask the family to share a story. Keeping their loved one’s memory alive is an important part of healthy grief and coping.
2. Offer to accompany or take the grieving person to the cemetery or other place of remembrance; people are sometimes reluctant to take advantage of such opportunities alone and will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
3. Make a donation in memory of the person who has died to a charity that was important to the service member or the family; this can be a powerful reminder to them that you remember and that you care.
4. Listen. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give is to listen to what others think and feel. Supporting those who are grieving can be as simple as lending an ear or holding a hand.
5. Acknowledge your own feelings; share the range of thoughts and emotions you experience with someone you trust, but not necessarily with the grieving family. Whether it is pride or shame, grief or hope, sharing these feelings is important.
Memorial Day can be a time to reach out to each other and share in our communal experience of grief and loss.
Your community hospice can be a source of information on grief and bereavement.Caring Connections, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, also offers information on grief at caringinfo.org or by calling the HelpLine at 1-800-658-8898.
Hospice and palliative care providers interested in learning how to address the unique needs of Veterans at the end of life, should learn more about We Honor Veterans, an pioneering program of NHPCO, in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA),that focuses on respectful inquiry, compassionate listening and grateful acknowledgment.