• Kerry Nagel

A professional caregiver's grief

A friend just brought me flowers...beautiful roses, a very soft pink. Two nights ago, my favorite client, a quiet, gentle man, died. He was 103. My friend knew I have massive love for this man.

My grief feels more like relief today, although I know Death well enough to realize that I will be hit by his loss at unexpected times, and the waves of it will come over me for months. My friend is a caregiver, like me. She realizes that those of us who are companions, who are nurses aids, who are respite care workers, are the ones to put our willing hands upon those who are frail, lonely, confused, and sick. We enter this each in our own fashion, with our own style, and find true and singular relationships with those who society has, in large part, forgotten.

I will be buying sympathy cards today...some for the family, and some for the women who have fed, washed, and socialized with my sweet old man for the last couple of years. I see the tears they shed as they walk out of his room. I feel the strength as we embrace each other. They grieve for each of the residents they lose. They make a difference with their compassion as to how our elders exit this life.

I am so thankful for clients' families who acknowledge my own grief and allow me into a room at the end. Every tiny bit of love we give and get in this work of caregiving is amazing to me. To be with someone at the end of their life is an honor. It is pure. It is sacred. It is imprinted on the heart.

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