Finding Joy: Comfort
Hello, my name is Joy. My mother was under the care of Unity Hospice for the last two months of her life. The care and comfort they provided her, and the strength I derived from her being in their loving hands, is something for which I will be forever grateful. I had the opportunity to express my gratitude in a testimonial which now resides on the Unity website.
I reside in California, but I am a proud Wisconsin native. A huge chunk of my heart will always live in America’s Dairyland. In the past four years, I have experienced the loss of my brother, my husband, and my mother. I have felt the deep pain of losing each of them and faced many days when I thought the darkness would never lift. No one can ever replace these beloved people, but I have learned that grief does not mean that my life is over. I have worked very hard (and still am) to get stronger and find ways to replace the darkness with light. I want to use this blog to share with you what I have learned, in the hope that it will uplift you and most of all, help you find joy.
My brother and husband both died suddenly, giving me no chance to say good-bye. My mom lived to the age of 100 and thanks to Unity, I was able to tell her again how much I loved her, until just before she passed. My brother was a constant protector of me when we were kids, and he loved to buy me stuffed animals. My mom was wise, devoted, loving, and kind, and the strongest person I have ever known. My husband, with whom I enjoyed life for 34 years, was the funniest, smartest, and most loving partner I could have wished for. With each loss, I was desperate to find comfort and respite from my sadness. Here are some places where I found comfort; I hope they help you find your own path of comfort.
My brother was a constant protector of me when we were kids, and he loved to buy me stuffed animals.
Soon after I lost my husband, I began to place photos of him throughout our house, so that it would feel as if he was still there, next to me. I spent hours pouring through albums and boxes, selecting the photos that I thought would bring me the most comfort. Sometimes it was a photo of us simply hugging each other. I was especially drawn to photos that captured his smile and his loving eyes. Whichever room I am in, I can catch a glimpse of him. Yes, there are moments when seeing his face reminds me of how much I want him back in my life – but most of the time, I feel the comfort of his enduring love. Two small photos of my mom – one with the two of us together wearing matching blouses, and another with me peering over her shoulder, are in my kitchen. That is the room that most reminds me of Mom, and where I am sure to see her smiling at me every day. Finally, I took one of my favorite pictures of my brother when he was a baby and had it custom framed. I placed it next to a photo of me when I was also a baby, reminding me that the two of us are forever linked through our shared DNA.
My husband was a chemist who loved every moment he worked in his lab. I barely passed high school chemistry, so I was in awe of his expertise in this field. Through his dedication to science, he left his footprint on this earth. As I sorted through his personal things, I made sure to prominently display some of the “tools of his trade” that he had tucked away after he retired. Small glass chemistry tubes, a Chart of the Elements, and a handful of microscope slides are displayed on a shelf in the office we used to share. I am alone in that room now but am reminded every day of his contribution to the world, and that brings me great comfort. Perhaps your loved one was a scientist, a cook, a farmer, a teacher, a homemaker, a nurse, an accountant, or a librarian. Even a single, small corner of a room can be used to display the tangible reminders of the personal mark they left on their community, their town, their home.
And don’t overlook the artists and crafters who knitted blankets and baby hats, put together amazing jigsaw puzzles, toiled for hours in a woodworking shop, or painted a watercolor scene of autumn in Wisconsin. Each treasure they produced is a labor of love worthy of a prominent place where you can be reminded of how much joy these activities brought them, and you.
Flannel and Fur
I have always derived comfort from soft, plush materials. My grief has made me want to literally bury myself in the folds of a cozy blanket, wrap a fuzzy scarf around my neck, or snuggle up with a stuffed animal whose furry limbs hug me close. Almost every day, I find comfort in cuddling the lion that rests on my bed or stroking the black and white cows that line a shelf in my office. Sometimes, I put on the thick, flannel shirt that was a favorite of my husband’s or a flannel nightgown that Mom wore to bed; I always feel these loved ones close to me, coming through the fibers. I hope you will allow yourself these simple but comforting moments whenever you need them.
Almost every day, I find comfort in cuddling the black and white cows that line a shelf in my office.
Dining Table Therapy
One of my memories of my childhood home is the dining room table that Mom decorated with colorful floral centerpieces, candles, and delicate china figurines. Every holiday and changing season meant there would be a simple but beautiful display to enjoy. Because I am now alone, I no longer eat at the dining table. So, in honor of my mom, I searched through drawers and cupboards for table runners, vases, silk flowers and wicker baskets. I visited our local Hobby Lobby and bought more flowers, and pink sparkly hearts tied with ribbons for a Valentines Day display. Now, whenever I walk into the dining room, I feel Mom there beside me, enjoying the beauty of my table. I feel comforted knowing how much she would approve of this and am already envisioning a floppy-eared bunny holding a basket of purple and pink Easter eggs, a crystal vase of silk cherry blossoms beside him.
One of my memories of my childhood home is the dining room table that Mom decorated with colorful floral centerpieces, candles, and delicate china figurines.
A Chair for Mom
My mother always had a comfy chair next to her bed and a small table where she kept a box of tissues, lotions, and, in later years, creams to apply to her arthritic knees. On the floor, next to the chair, she piled magazines from her favorite clothing shops that arrived in the mail. Although her purchases were kept to a minimum, she loved paging through the magazines and admiring the latest fashions. Whenever I visited her, we browsed through them together. Sometimes, I asked her to choose something that I could buy her as a gift for her birthday, Mother’s Day, or “just because.” After she passed, I removed a clothes tree next to the bed, and replaced it with a chair and small table. The table holds a box of tissues, hand lotion, and yes, arthritis cream. Magazines from her favorite shops are on the floor, next to the chair. “Together,” Mom and I leaf through the pages, admire the fashions, and decide what to buy. This brings me much comfort.
Recognizing that every person grieves and heals in their own way, Unity Grief and Education Center offers a wide variety of services to anyone who has experienced a death. Generous donations allow Unity to offer compassionate grief support at no charge. Please visit the Unity Grief and Education Center website or call 920-339-6700 to speak with a Grief Counselor.
This blog post was shared by Joy R., whose mother was under the care of Unity Hospice for the last two months of her life.
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