22 May, 2021
Interview with Janet Tezel, Family Support Team Leader and Counsellor
Is it true that patients’ family members are as likely to engage with Harbour Hospice’ counselling services as the patient is?
Yes, palliative care brings with it a whole range of concerns not just for the patient, but also for the family and carers. These range from financial worries to ‘can I continue to care for my loved one?’ They often need to be reminded and guided to take care of themselves while taking care of their loved ones.
With bereavement we are often asked ‘will I ever regain a sense of normalcy?’ and ‘how will I know when I am ready to move forward?’
Are people surprised to learn that hospice is there for whānau in bereavement as well?
Yes, a lot of people don’t realise that we continue to work with whānau long after their loved one has died, and that’s unique to hospice. We tell them that even after their loved one is gone we will still be here beside you, in whatever way you need.
I just counselled someone last week where it’s been a year since their loved one died. We do have bereavement groups where people can come together and know they are not alone, but sometimes people aren’t ready to be with a group, yet know they have things they need to work through.
And there’s so much to work through – from being independent suddenly to the loneliness, to the readjustment. Sometimes people can feel lost and invisible within their family, when their family is so bereft.
What are patients’ common worries or concerns?
There is a wide variety of worries that we work with. Those can range from unresolved personal issues to family or relationship issues.
We often focus on particular concerns such as ‘how will my family cope?’ or ‘how can I continue to maintain composure or keep my sense of dignity?’ and a common question is ‘how do I cope with my continuously changing role?’
For couples this can be such a challenging time and we are asked by them to help them talk to one another openly and honestly - not just about the illness, but about goals and expectations. This can be particularly challenging.
But this is also such an insightful time. And it is a privilege to be able to walk alongside patients as they reflect on how they lived and what matters most.
In the short video above Janet talks about breakthroughs in people’s bereavement journeys.