The death of a loved one…it’s the single most stressful event in life. When you are thrown into grief, the feelings can be overwhelming and so personal that we (and others) often have a hard time understanding them. The pain of grief after losing a loved one has been described as “losing an arm; it takes time to process the enormity of the loss, it feels like it should still be there and you keep trying to use it but it’s gone…everything and I mean EVERYTHING is so hard to do.”
Taveon Woodward, a very special boy in JourneyCare’s All About Kids pediatric program, just turned 9 and is living with rhabdoid pleuropulmonary blastoma – his third relapse since he was first diagnosed at 3 years old. At the start of this year, the doctors gave him the “all clear,” but by April they told him it was “back with a vengeance." This time, though, his only treatment option is palliative chemotherapy to treat his symptoms.
When Social Worker Jennifer Leahy Junas and I admitted Taveon, we knew his birthday was close and could be his last. We asked how he would like to celebrate this year, and he shared that he'd love to go roller skating. Oh boy! With that response my mind went a’whirling to my own childhood …
JourneyCare pet therapy volunteers bring a variety of trained, furry companions to visit patients in their homes, assisted-living and care facilities, and our Hospice CareCenters. They may also comfort campers at Camp Courage, JourneyCare’s bereavement camp for children ages 6-13, who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
Twelve years ago, I was a patient at the Rehab Institute of Chicago (RIC). The day that I was transferred there was a low point for me as I’d hoped instead to be going home. As I settled into my new surroundings, I noticed a dog and its owner standing in the hallway outside of my room. Before I knew it, the dog was at my bedside, resting its head on the side of my bed and looking up at me with eyes of love. The dog was one of several therapy dogs assigned to work at RIC. To this day, that visit stands out as a turning point in my long recovery from major surgery and multiple strokes. As a life-long dog lover, I told myself that someday, when I had the time, I would train a therapy dog so we could bring the same peace and joy that I’d experienced to others.
Camp Courage provides a safe, supportive and fun environment for campers to explore and express their feelings. Activities are led by professionally trained counselors and trained JourneyCare volunteers.
Have you ever really watched a thunderstorm? Sometimes it moves in slowly and you can watch as the clouds roll in, the rain starts to fall, and the thunder rumbles. Other times it hits unexpectedly, it’s loud and aggressive, ending with a peaceful breeze and sunshine. In a way, grief can be a bit like a thunderstorm too. It doesn’t always move in a steady predictable pattern. Sometimes it comes unexpectedly, while other times it moves in waves.