A lot of Baby Boomers may be in for a shock. We may think that we are prepared for the sadness that will accompany our parents’ death. when in fact, we may be completely unprepared for this life experience. To lose the people in your life that have always been there and know you the best is a life-altering event.
I was sure that I understood the pain that would accompany the eventual death of my mother. Professionally I was a nurse and involved in palliative care and bereavement counseling so I was sure that I was prepared. I was wrong.
I quickly realized that this experience can only be described as a total assault on your being. I then became concerned about my friends who had not yet experienced this pain.
The Baby Boomer generation has had an enormous impact on many of our cultural and societal norms. This will be no exception. Baby Boomers have had many advantages compared with previous generations, but limited experience with suffering the consequences of events such as world wars and depression.
Grief off Limits
Grief causes physical and emotional pain. As Baby Boomers, we have come to expect instant pain relief in this fast paced society. In addition, Baby Boomers will be facing this chapter in their lives in a culture that does not give grief the respect or validation it deserves. Grief is an emotion that our society does not want to discuss. It has become an “off limits” subject in our culture.
Finding someone to listen to you again and again and again is a key element in getting through this difficult time. This can be a friend or a counselor – it really doesn’t matter. Talking about our feelings is key to coming to terms with our grief.
We have inherited the “stiff upper lip” of our parent’s generation and have also been inundated with expressions such as “get on with life” and “closure” and “getting back to normal”. None of these expressions or attitudes helps the grief- stricken.
Losing a parent is a significant loss that is difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t yet experienced it. The expectation of those around us to get “back to normal” takes an incredible amount of energy and can be exhausting.
People don’t want to see others in pain. But due to that, we try to rush people through a process that follows its own timeframes and requires time our culture finds difficult to give.
Turning to a new “normal”
We will never be the same after experiencing such grief, but will eventually develop a new “normal” and learn to live in a world without our loved ones. This process takes time and patience from those who are close friends and relatives.
Hopefully the sheer numbers of Baby Boomers experiencing this life event will change how our culture handles grief. It is not well understood. Without that knowledge it becomes more difficult to navigate through this inevitable and disturbing life experience. Regrettably grief follows its own timeframe. You experience waves of grief even months later when you least expect it.
There are positive elements of the grief process. As you go through this process you can find your priorities are different than before and there is an appreciation of life that perhaps wasn’t there in the past. Hopefully many Baby Boomers will experience some of these positive changes in their lives and help to change the way our culture handles grief.
By Jane Galbraith, BScN, RN
Jane Galbraith, BScN, R.N., is the author of “Baby Boomers Face Grief -- Survival and Recovery.” Her work in the community health field included dealing with palliative clients and their bereaved families and has also assisted facilitating grief support groups. She speaks to many organizations including the Bereavement Ontario Network annual meeting and the Canadian Palliative Care and Hospice Conference in the fall of 2007.
Her book is available through the author directly at email@example.com or www.amazon.ca. More information about the book can be found at www.boomergrief.blogspot.com or at www.trafford.com/05-2319. (Type “Galbraith” in author’s search box.)