Loss and Grief

Posted by: | December 15, 2010

A few weeks ago, I invited my friend Glenn to come to a potluck at my house, and he said cheerfully, “Well, I will as long as I’ve gotten rid of this cold by then.”  I laughed and reassured him that he would be better in time.

Glenn’s sister called me this past Sunday to let me know that Glenn had passed away on Saturday night. He had never recovered from that cold and he had ended up in St. Paul’s Hospital with a lung infection.  It was made worse by the fact that he had cystic fibrosis.  When I found out that he had gone to hospital (and stayed), I insisted on visiting.  Glenn didn’t want me to see him so sick, so I just left a bowl of homemade soup and a card with one of the nurses.  He texted shortly thereafter, “You’re good to me, Jolly.”  I won’t ever forget that text: those were his last words to me.

Glenn and I met as colleagues at my former workplace.  He was a really important support for me when I moved back to BC from Vermont as I really didn’t have any friends here.  He was the one who cheered for me the day I got my new job at UBC.  He was a quirky guy with a British accent, and the greatest love for his dog, Gorgeous, whom we jokingly referred to as my dog’s girlfriend.  He was one of the only people in my adult life who got to call me “Jolly.”

So I went to work yesterday and life carried on without Glenn, much to my surprise.  It comes to me in waves of shock and then I’m overwhelmed with the fact that my friend is gone.

I tell you all of this because I realized yesterday that there are so many people who have, or will, lose a colleague/friend at UBC.  Death creeps into our workplaces.  I was surprised by that idea, as if the high heels and the business suits could keep death at bay.  So I wanted to talk a little about grief, because if we’re lucky enough to have people worth caring about in our lives, then it means we’re also unlucky enough to lose some of them.

Grief is such a confusing and painful response to loss.  It’s frustrating because it makes you feel out of control- that you can’t control your body or mind, and that’s a pretty scary feeling.  Unfortunately, we’re not very educated in our society about healthy coping. The method of coping that most TV shows teach us is pretty destructive: drink too much, punch something/someone and end up making things worse.  Coping with death around the holidays can be a particularly difficult thing too.

At UBC, one of our best resources for help for emotional issues like grief is the Employee Family and Assistance Program (EFAP).  EFAP is available 24 hours/day. You can call up and talk to someone on the phone, or you can set up a formal appointment to meet with someone in person.  That’s helpful because we often want to talk with are our friends, but they’re likely also dealing with their own grief.  Friends can even possibly make things worse for you, because their way of coping may be different than yours, which can cause conflict and further confusion.  Having supportive friends and family surrounding you is key, but a mental health practitioner can give you an outside perspective.

There are a multitude of models that outline different stages of grief, which people often work through at their own pace.  I like the Canadian Mental Health Association’s model, simply because it has three stages which make me feel like this all will pass quickly. I’m aware, however, that grief likely will not pass quickly.

Glenn was an amazing colleague and friend.  I hope you have a chance to have colleagues and friends who are as steadfast, reliable and funny as he was.  I also hope that you never lose them, but if you do, I hope you find the resources you need to cope with that loss.

Here are some additional articles:

American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/coworker.aspx

National Hospice Foundation: http://www.nhpco.org/files/public/GuideManagers.pdf

Compassionate Friends: http://www.compassionatefriends.org/brochures/when_an_employee_is_grieving.aspx

Many thanks to the people at St. Paul’s Hospital who cared for my friend in his last days.

Filed under: Suzanne Jolly, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

2 Responses to “Loss and Grief”

  1. Deidre Plaatjes says:

    Suzanne,that was so beautiful what you wrote it made me cry. Glenn was a special quirky fella who always had a cheeky smile and you would always hear him whistling when he came into the room. Another memory I have of him is I was always saying to him when he slid across the counter behind me at reception that he was going knock himself out on that concrete post on the other side of the counter and he always replied with a huge grin…Nah I’m a black Ninja. This is the first time for me that a collegue and friend has passed away -with Glenn’s sudden passing its brought back all the grief that I thought I had dealt with I finally thought I was on the road to healing. You are correct about the stages of dealing with grief friends and family are always there for you but what finally had me on the right road to healing was going to see first a single grief counsellor then a group grief counselling and that was only because my daughter came home from lunch one day and said that I needed outside help … I had become so numb to death when I lost my dad, my partner and 7 very close friends all in in a 6 month period in 2007 just before I came to Quest. My daughter said I was her mom but I wasn’t her mom I just an empty shell and it was scaring her and everyone close to me so that is when I went for outside help.
    Deidre

  2. sjolly says:

    Thanks for sharing De.
    It is rather remarkable how the death of one dear friend can bring forth all the sadness of the loss of others in our lives. I’m glad you reached out to connect with counselling- I know it helps.

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