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  • Writer's pictureSusie Pitts

Release the Hold Button...Please!

My life has been put on hold…the elevator music is playing in the background; I’m tapping my toes as I wait – my fingers too. I’ve been on hold for so long the playlist is literally on repeat…I’ve had enough. We have all had enough.

On a weekly basis I volunteer for a local Hospice making bereavement calls to those that have lost a loved one from a terminal diagnosis that may or, may not be related to Covid-19. Those calls cannot wait or be put on hold. People need to talk about their sorrow and pain and, they need support. Right now, that is I what I do – support those that are grieving. For those that have passed since the pandemic arrived in the U.S., loved ones open up about their unique situations and tell me about mom, dad, sibling or friend that died. It’s a sacred space that I am invited into. I listen to their stories and am amazed at learning about the richness of their relationships. During the conversation I ask them where they live, were they able to visit their loved one, did they get to be there in those last precious moments of life? Many have told me they were indeed able to be bedside and, they are so grateful for that. Sadly, the majority have not been physically present when their beloved died. I ask were they able to have a memorial or funeral? Some say, “dad didn’t want a service”, and others answer plainly, yes or no. For those that have to put their final goodbye’s on hold my heart aches for them.

Those of us that work in death and dying know how important that final goodbye is. We need that ritual, whatever it might look like. That simple or elaborate service is critical to our own healing and without it we put on hold our emotions that would normally serve to move us forward. The consequences of not having a service is long reaching. Gently, I encourage them to at least do an online video memorial to commemorate the death, followed later when the hold button has been released to have a real service. I can’t help but wonder what the long-term effects will be on the grief process. Will we see an uptick in our counselors being overloaded with clients down the road with grief displaced? We already know the mental health of our world is at stake even if our leaders don’t want to acknowledge the devastating effects of how this holding pattern is hurting everyone.

Being on hold is not easy, but I’m grateful that I am blessed with an ability to be present for those that are also on hold and, in sorrow. At least they have a place to let go a little bit, a few minutes of me listening provides them with an opportunity to slowly open the door to process their grief.

So, yes, I’ve had enough - it’s time for the hold button to be released, we all need it. And yes, the world is different now, and somehow, we have to begin the process of accepting this new way of being, whatever that really turns out to be. Release that button!

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