The experience of grief wears many faces for families whose lives are challenged by change, turmoil, illness, death and/or the loss of hopes and dreams. Grief is a process not easily acknowledged in our society, particularly the grief of experiences other than death. Yet grief is often an integral part of most life changes and experiences. Families who can acknowledge their grief and learn healthy ways to express their pain can then free their emotional energies to focus on life and the challenges ahead. Grief that is not allowed a healthy release frequently finds expression in anger, abuse and/or neglect of a loved one, substance abuse, illness and sometimes by the sabotaging of another's efforts to help.
It is a commonplace in the bereavement literature that unresolved grief can lead to difficulties coping with any losses throughout life. Families in need of planned or crisis respite all struggle with feelings of loss.
For example, a mother who seeks out crisis nursery services may also be in the process of divorce which brings its own unique grief to the situation. The family of a child considered medically fragile who is in need of respite care may experience a sense of loss over not having a "healthy" or "perfect" child. The spouse of a family member with Alzheimer's may grieve the loss of the life they have planned together.
Knowledge of the process of grief and how to help individuals and families cope with their loss experiences can be an invaluable asset to planned and crisis respite programs and their service providers. By offering individuals and families opportunities to grieve their losses and acknowledging the hurt that accompanies those losses, we offer them tools and strategies to cope with the ongoing losses that are a part of everyone's life.