Yesterday started out really good. I thought the weather was going to be good since it was forecasted to be the hottest day of the week...cooler temperatures in August is always a welcome relief. I headed out to work feeling good and looking forward to seeing my clients at the ICF/MR.
Once I arrived I was greeted by the two men who usually are always outside, both telling me "GOOD MORNING SHIRLEY!" and waving. Their bright smiles always make me instantaneously return the smile and give me a lift in spirit even on the worst day. I asked about their weekends and head in to get my group room set up.
When I went go gather up my first group the lady who sees over their lunchroom said she wanted to talk to me. She pulled me aside and told me that one of the residents had been taken to the hospital and they didn't think she would make it. It was easy to see she was trying to keep it together emotionally and I knew I had to hold it together because there was going to be an overflow of emotion soon and being a therapist I would be expected to help others. I found one of my coworkers and let her know what was likely to come so she could be prepared and then sent a message to my Regional Director so she could alert the other therapists that see clients at the facility.
I had my groups as usual, not mentioning the news I heard, and they all seemed to be in good spirits. One group member did mention that someone went to the hospital but he didn't know who it was. Another stated she thought she knew who it was but didn't know what happened. It is not uncommon for a resident to go to the hospital for one reason or another so they were not too upset by the incident. Once I finished my groups I was informed that the resident didn't make it. I knew then it was just a matter of time before the news hit throughout the facility.
I had to break the news to her best friend because the facility staff wasn't sure how to tell her. I almost cried as I spoke the words and then saw the news sink in and the expression on her face of first bewilderment, then shock and then heart wrenching sadness. I held her as she cried and asked over and over again who was going to be her friend, who was
going to go walking with her, who would she talk to, who would she sit
outside with...who would love her. I search for the right words to say to this woman who has the mind of a child to make her understand that she wasn't alone. I spent over an hour with her making sure she was going to be okay as she has a history of going into almost catatonic state when she receives bad news. I finally got her to walk outside with me and sit on a bench for a bit and get some fresh air.
I also want to share that when I last went to check on her before they got ready to return to their houses she was standing, holding on to her walker, and pointed to the resident next to her and told me "my friend is going to walk me home" and I told her I was glad she allowing others to help her. I then turned to her friend and said "I hope you lead her better than me because I kinda let her run into a few things earlier" and the grieving woman actually gave a little laugh and said "Yeah she did! (the woman that passed away) did a better job walking me and she was almost blind". At that I couldn't help but laugh and throw my arms around her and give her a big hug which she returned wholeheartedly. I promised her that I would check with her again today and if she wanted to talk I would be there for her.
Not until late at night did I allow myself to feel the grief and have my cry. I knew I needed to get it out because I would need to be recharged for today when I will have to have my groups again and allow them to share their feelings of grief and discuss how to cope. They are the most resilient group of people, always depending on their faith in God and belief that, as one resident put it "God knows when it is time. She is in a better place and she isn't blind anymore and doesn't have to use a walker". If we could all be so accepting, loving and have such faith the world would be a better place.