By Michelle Gladu, LMSW, Bereavement Counselor
Dying at home is what many people wish for and what a growing number of families want for their loved ones. In generations past, death at home was a more familiar and expected occurrence. Today, families are often not prepared for how they may feel after the death has occurred. If the family member was ill, the knowledge that they fulfilled their loved one’s wish for a home death can bring families great comfort.
Loved ones may die at home unexpectedly as well, however, sometimes under traumatic circumstances. Whether anticipated or not, difficult images and memories can accompany a death at home – the home in which other family members must usually continue to live. For some, having medical equipment removed along with other reminders of a death due to illness helps. Returning a room or area where a loved one died back to a more “normal” state can provide a sense of consistency and familiarity. Others find solace in making the space look different. They may paint a room, rearrange furniture or place photos and other mementos of happier times in an area where family members can come together to remember. Spouses may decide to make another room in the house their own if their spouse died in the bedroom they formerly shared. Take some time to think about what might be most helpful and practical for you. If you live with others it’s important to communicate and negotiate any changes made in the home because, as with most aspects of grief, there are variations in what each person finds helpful or comforting.
Families may fear these difficult memories will replace the happier thoughts of their loved one at home, and take away the sense of home as a place of refuge. It can help to seek counseling if you are struggling with some particularly painful images in your mind. People most often find that these difficult memories will lessen in time though, and their home will be a source of comfort again.
If you would like some help coping with grief call the Hospice of Central New York Grief Center at 315-634-1100.