EOL Care, Motivational

An Open Letter to Oprah and Everyone Else Walking with Loss this Holiday Season

No one really understands exactly how you feel right now… I don’t claim to either, but in my heart, I hurt with you.

I lost my mother this past summer and this is our first holiday season without her. Before Mom’s illness, she was known for her soul food cooking, especially her homemade sweet potato pies, German chocolate cake, and peach cobbler—all made from scratch. She was a caring and giving person who loved her family and most everybody else who crossed her path. Mom’s mother died when she was only two years old, so she had a very hard life and married young to get away from an abusive environment. Yet, with four kids and working two and three jobs, she got her cosmetology license and opened a beauty salon that grew into a successful, thriving business in the 1960s and spanned 4 decades. She loved church and sang solos in the choir. Mom was a praying woman who prayed daily over her family, her children, 8 grandchildren, and 10 great grandchildren.

Although I am a licensed social worker, college professor and an end-of-life care planning expert, I found myself in a similar situation, Oprah, where nothing in a book could tell me exactly what to say when my mother was in hospice that last week of her life.

Those last moments were both surreal and comforting as we gathered around Mom’s bed—my dad, my siblings, my daughters, nieces, nephews, grands—some crying, others lovingly touching her frail body as I said a prayer of blessing. Mom loved affection and I believe that her final breath was a glorious one knowing that she had all of our attention!

When we love someone, we will grieve. Grief is our response to loss. Grief is a natural part of the human experience, but there is no “correct” way to do it. One thing that I found most helpful to me while grieving the loss of my mother was the outpouring of love and support my family and friends gave to me: the phone calls, text messages, visits, meals, conversations, prayers—and yes, laughter!

I encourage you and others who are experiencing loss during this holiday season to please accept the gift of those who offer a listening ear (to listen to the memories tucked away in your heart); a helping hand (to do whatever needs to be done); and a patient heart (to care for you while you take time to grieve in your own way).
As much as we may want to, no one can take you away from this hard place. But there are a few things we can do for those who are grieving—Listen. Be there. Pray.

Blessings to you,

Dr. Gloria Thomas Anderson