Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Death and Dying - Part I: The Casserole Effect

When someone dies, our cultural norm is to 'circle the wagons'. For the grieving spouse, parent, child, friend, relative, co-worker, neighbor, and for ourselves, we offer love, compassion, sympathy, friendship, kinship, warmth, and support. Frequently, this takes the form of food - which is sustenance, nourishment, a very basic need, and something we expect the bereaved to appreciate and not want nor need to prepare on their own. This is a wonderful tradition - it is from the heart, and it is given with only the best of intentions.

What I hypothesize as 'the casserole effect' is that within a week or ten days, the calls, the visits, the handholding, and the casseroles have subsided - and the mourner, the griever is left with his/her emptiness, including literally and figuratively, the casserole dishes.

What I have learned and what I know to be true, is that after such a loss, there needs to be continuity of communication, connection, and compassion. The immediacy of our response to someone else's loss needs to extend past the initial event and not create a 'casserole effect', where we have done that which is expedient, and yet perhaps, not for long enough.

Support, concern, and love are long term commitments. We are needed as much, or perhaps more, in the months following a loss, as we are when we first make our casseroles.

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