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Come introduce yourself 
Started by moderator | modératrice
06 Dec 2011, 2:58 PM


Welcome to the Virtual Hospice community. Feel free to introduce yourself here in this thread and connect with others. 

You can also fill out your profile and tell the community a bit about you.


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Reply by al_hal
08 Dec 2011, 3:50 PM

Hi everyone, I'm Al - a fresh volunteer in the world of palliative care. I don't have a tonne of experience (yet) but I do have a lot of passion. I'm looking forward to participating in these discussion forums to offer support for those searching for it. Hopefully I will become a better volunteer along the way.

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Reply by NatR
13 Dec 2011, 4:48 PM

Hello I care for a special needs family member and have worked in LTC.  Thanks to Colleen for pointing me in this direction.

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Reply by moderator | modératrice
14 Dec 2011, 2:52 PM

Welcome NatR. As an experienced caregiver, I'm sure you could share some very useful tips in the Helpful Ideas forum.  I look forward to your posts. 


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Reply by GirlWithTheBlackBeret
19 Dec 2011, 10:02 PM

Hi Colleen,

I was a caregiver for my mother who was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer with bone and lung metastases. A few months of treatment and a valiant fight, cancer took my Mom in 2006.

When I look back on my experience, I learned two things:

1) The topic of death and dying is one of the last taboo topics out there. Even though whether they like it or not it’s something everyone has to deal with at some point. It’s a normal natural thing yet it feels like the furthest thing from normal. People just don’t want to talk about it but when you are confronting your own mortality or that of a loved one, the lack of awareness and openness causes you to feel isolated and scared.

2) Grief and grieving is fundamentally misunderstood by others.

While watching my Mom struggle and pass away was one of the saddest/hardest experiences of my life, it’s also one the things that I am most proud of, the fact I was able to return the wonderful care she gave me a child in her time of need.

I hope to help others in sharing my story.

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Reply by moderator | modératrice
22 Dec 2011, 10:38 PM

Welcome GirlWithTheBlackBeret. You're so right, eventhough death is an inevitable part of life, it is a reluctant topic of discussion. Thank you for joining Virtual Hospice and contributing to an open community where dying and death are not taboo topics. Your story will certainly welcome people to join the conversation in their time of need.


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Reply by Cath1
30 Dec 2011, 6:18 PM

Hi everyone! I'm Cath1 on this Virtual Hospice site and Catherine in the "real" world.

I am looking forward to contributing some of my experience with death of a loved one, most significantly to me, the passing of my Mom a year ago. I have also experienced the deaths of other family members over the years and each experience, in different ages and stages of my life, brought up different feelings and emotional reactions for me.

For reasons I will explain in a subsequent post, I believe I am coming through the tail end of a complicated period of grief due to the controversy surrounding the events leading up to my Mom's death. I am actually feeling quite positive these past couple of weeks, having passed - and survived - all the major milestones of the first year since my Mom died, and I can feel a gentle healing taking place within me. Grief and healing have somehow become connected and sometimes they are experienced simultaneously.

Healing and grief, for me, are not felt as a whole or solitary experience, rather they each are moving me, sometimes soothing me quietly within, at other times like a raging fire I wish would completely burn itself out. Individual and sometimes intangible sensations of sadness emanate through my body and solar plexus, my heart aching, and often the grief is felt pulsating as pain, shortness of breath, or tension headaches). ">anxiety located in my core, in my belly, it's physical fatigue, worry, anxiety, depression or sadness. ">pain too, and each tiny spasm of sorrow is linked one to one until it's three, and then four and so on. Yet grief is not a linear experience, it is all encompassing and sometimes it is felt so loudly pounding through my very soul that I have wondered at times if peace is possible. It is.

Having also experienced the grief over the loss of my Mom's mental health and that of other family members whom have suffered with a mental illness, I believe I know something of the nature of grief and its many faceted dimensions and it does not always involve the physical death of a loved one. I sometimes remember those feelings of loss as more difficult to bear, if that's possible, than the "ultimate" loss of life, if that makes any sense at all. Perhaps because those losses had no particular ending in sight and perhaps because they were experienced while in the innocence of my youth they are remembered as having been more overwhelming.

The grief I experienced as a child when my mother had an episode of mental illness and had to be hospitalized was as real to me as the sorrow I felt when my Mom actually died. When I was little I couldn't understand the ever-present threat of losing my Mom to an illness that changed her physical appearance, emotional demeanour, and her thoughts and behaviour. It was frightening. I recall often feeling very insecure and uncertain, abandoned and alone, and for me, every episode was experienced like a death of my "real" Mom. I learned at a very early age to be hyper-vigilant and protective of her and I knew instinctively how to compensate for her times of instability which made me very self-reliant at a tender age.

Eventually as I matured, I learned to deeply understand and accept my Mom's illness and I became expert at anticipating the onset of her symptoms so I could intervene and get her professional help. Distinguishing the subtle and not so subtle differences between my Mom as she truly was and my Mom's persona when she was ill became an art form for which I excelled over the years. Naturally, since I was the only daughter, and my father was never present in our lives, I became the advocate for my Mom throughout her life. It was, in memory, at times a burden, especially when I was little, and then as a young married woman with children of my own, and yet I came to feel it was a privilege to have been able to accept the responsibility of the role life cast for me so that my Mom could live the very best life possible - and she did - she lived a wonderful life for 84 years.

I read an older post on this site which was written by "highlanddancermom40" and what drew me to it was the date she wrote her post: December 5, 2010 - that's the date my Mom died. Her post was about feeling guilt and being conflicted about celebrating life when a loved one (her dear sister) is facing their own end. It's a huge challenge no doubt to even consider that we are entitled to pleasant feelings and experiences when one we love so dearly cannot experience the joy that we are capable of feeling. But life demands of us to embrace it in each moment, to live it fully, to celebrate its joys and to accept its hardships, all of which define a life well-lived.

I had a lot of these same type of internal conflicts throughout my life as I am by nature a happy person and an optimist. I often felt guilty - I suppose in some ways like "survivor guilt" - when I was enjoying my life knowing that my Mom or brother was unable to enjoy their lives with the same kind of enthusiasm due to circumstances. I do know that had I not been the stronger more resilient personality, had I not been able to see the humourous side of life and people and situations, had I not been able to live each moment of my life, my family would not have benefitted in any way. Instead I chose to stand strong and do what I could to help others stand strong on their own two feet; I learned to set healthy boundaries so I would not be swallowed whole by despair until others could see that despair can be overcome with effort and with kindness and self-acceptance; I learned to love my life and the people in it exactly as I am and as they are with few regrets and a lot of conviction that compassion shines through every dark cloud, eventually; and that with faith, hope and love all things are possible.

To those of you here who are experiencing the loss of a loved one, or perhaps facing your own mortality this holiday season, my heart goes out to you. You will find the courage to cope and to find acceptance. We each find our own way to that illusive healing place that exists within, and I wish that everyone here will arrive at the healing place soon.

Until next time . . .

Happy New Year!:)

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Reply by moderator | modératrice
01 Jan 2012, 9:48 PM

Welcome Catherine. Thank you for posting your story. It has so many layers that I'm sure you'll have many opportunities to contribute rich insights on many different threads on this forum. I hope you will post to highlanddancermom40's thread about Guilt

You may wish to also post to nanalovesu on Overwhelmed with emotion. You express how healing and grief ebb and flow so beautifully. I'm sure she would appreciate your experience. 

A forum about loss and mental illness would be well placed on Virtual Hospice. People need a safe, welcoming place to discuss such sensitive topics that are often taboo in our world. I encourage others to join the conversation. Please feel free to extend the invitation to anyone you know looking for a place to share.

Thank you.


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Reply by Cath1
07 Jan 2012, 5:48 PM

Hi Colleen:

Thanks very much for the warm welcome and for your words of encouragement!:)

I just posted a piece in the section, "Talking about dying with those who are dying" and while it is not probably completely relevant to the topic I do talk about dying.

I have been ultra busy over the holidays and therefore unfortunately I have had little time to contribute much writing here, but I hope to have more time to write in the future. The shortened form of my name when the letters are mixed up create the word "chat" and in fact "Chatty Cathy" was my Mom's nickname for me when I was young, so the communication thing comes naturally to me!:)

I'll be back!:)

Happy New Year!:)

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Reply by Livvy
23 Jan 2012, 6:02 PM

Similar to Al, I am two months in to a new volunteer post at a Montreal hospital on an extraordinary palliative care ward. I lost both my parents some time ago and was able to be with each of them as they went through the dying process. My mother worked with a loving and understanding home hospice team in Maine to die a diginified death in her own home after spending more than a decade of suffering from symptoms associatied with debilitating rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis. My father had vascular dementia and was aphasic for some years (a terrible thing for an actor!) but he was also able to die peacefully in an old age home also in Maine where he was looked after with grace and care. My sister and I were fortunate to be with them and to have the support of numerous professionals and volunteers along the way. My hope is that I can help other families to move through the dying process with tranquility and love around them. I also hope that I can offer some assistance to the medical professionals who work with the dying so that they can focus on offering the best end of life care possible.
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