|PATIENT STORY: IRV SCHERMAN
On Friday, October 13, 2008, Naperville resident Irv Scherman and his wife Natalie celebrated the 50th anniversary of their first date. Leukemia claimed Natalie's life later that month.
"When you experience the loss of a spouse or other close family member you're staggered by a range of emotions you may never have had before. You may wonder if you're going crazy," says Scherman.
These feelings led the then 68-year old Scherman to try one of Edward Hospital's ongoing grief recovery groups, open to any community member 18 and over who is grieving the loss of a loved one.
"The biggest benefit of the group is being with people who understand our feelings," says Scherman. "We see that our feelings are normal. And hearing from other members of the group who are further along in their grieving process gives us hope that we might get to that point."
Meetings of Edward's grief recovery groups are held in the Edward Education Center on Wednesday mornings, 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and Thursday evenings, 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
"The Edward chaplains, who take turns leading the meetings, are not only very qualified, they're also kind and understanding,” says Scherman. “Each brings a different perspective."
One suggestion offered by Karen Swiderski, Edward’s manager of spiritual care, to those suffering a loss: Give friends and relatives the benefit of the doubt when they struggle to find the right way to console.
"Remember, they're responding to the sadness and helplessness of the situation,” says Swiderski. “Despite their best intentions, they may say or do something that actually intensifies your feelings of loss. They want to offer solace, but it's lost in translation."
Here are some tips on the art of comforting from Scherman and chaplains Swiderski, Jim Breen and Susan Kearney:
- Don't say things that seem to dismiss the person's feelings of loss, or suggest that their grieving should follow a set timetable. Avoid statements such as, "Oh, it's been a year so you must be moving on" or "You look good, you're obviously handling things well."
- Don't avoid mentioning the name of the deceased person. Those who have lost a loved one want to keep their memory alive.
- Understand that each family member may grieve a shared loss in a unique way, based on their relationship with the loved one and how they manage emotions.
- If a friend or co-worker has suffered a loss, remember that quiet presence is sometimes the most powerful form of support, along with simple words such as, "I know whatever I tell you won't change anything, but I want to be there for you."
Scherman attended the group for three years and recommends it to others facing a major loss.
"It can be helpful and it's free. I don't know whether I'd be at the point I am today without the group,” he says. “I now have some good friends that were in the group with me. We meet regularly, go on outings and laugh a lot."
For information on Edward’s grief support programs, visit www.edward.org/griefrecovery or call (630) 527-5056.