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Not an easy road...Pastor encourages individuals to be open with sick family members

Published:Saturday | June 27, 2015 | 12:00 AM

YOUR LOVED one has been feeling sick for a while, you have finally convinced them that it's time for them to see a doctor ... but then the medical personnel calls you aside and gives you the devastating news.

It's not just a little flu - it's a sickness that may not be going away any time soon. In fact, the prognosis is far from encouraging.

In the midst of your crumbling, threatening to fall apart, you are now wondering how honest you should be as the doctor has left that decision in your hands.

That's a scenario that has been played out all too many times as families share the grieving process after receiving devastating health news.

The Reverend Dr Edina Bayne, associate pastor and member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, weighed in on the issue. According to her, honesty will always be the best policy.

She said it is important that individuals share their words carefully when discussing the matter with loved ones.

Baynes pointed out that chronic illness is a form of loss. the person is there physically, but gone emotionally.

"So the sick person is the one suffering the loss. It is important, therefore, to allow that person to tell their story - express their feelings - even if they repeat it over and over again."

According to Baynes, when the sick person has all the facts, it actually helps the person to fight better.

overcoming grief

"To overcome, we must identify, acknowledge, accept, confront, then conquer."

Watching your loved one battle a debilitating sickness is not an easy task. It is even worse according to Baynes as that family member is trying to counsel himself through his own grief as well as acting as a grief counsellor to their sick ones.

"If your loved one is not experiencing the positives (whatever the reason - not a Christian, not religious, not a person of faith, angry at God, scared ... ), you should not share these positives with them too early in the grieving process. This only cheapens their experience and triggers responses like, 'You just don't understand. Where is God? I am angry with God! Why me?' she said.

For her, the solution is to allow them to feel the emotion of their grief just as you the caregiver need to feel your own emotion of grief.

It is also important for families to 'normalise' grief by talking about the 'crazy feeling' - distorted thinking patterns, irrational thoughts, fearful thoughts, feelings of despair and obsessive focus on loved one, among other emotions.

The grieving process, according to Baynes, cannot be rushed and takes longer than anyone would want. The parties involved must go through the various stages - anger, denial, shock, numbness, depression, withdrawal and finally acceptance.

"Recognising that your loved one is gone physically or emotionally, you will be forced to readjust. It is important to understand that everyone grieves differently. Allow yourself to have your experience. Remember that in grief, everyone cries - some internally and some externally. This can be true of the seriously sick loved one as well as the caregiver," she said.

familyandreligion@gleanerjm.com