Category: Care

How to move on from grief

In the midst of what is perhaps the most tumultuous time any of us have ever experienced in our lives, moving on from the grief associated with the passing of a loved one may seem almost impossible. While loss is an inevitable part of life, personal losses are now compounded by the collective grief that the world is experiencing due to the effect of the pandemic.

When it seems like everyone is constantly in a state of grieving, how does one move on from your own, and start living your life to the full again?

What is grief?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines grief as “deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement (sadness because of the death of a loved one)”. Most people who have had to deal with the death of a loved one will have heard of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

It is important to note that not everyone who experiences grief over the passing of someone near to them will go through these exact stages, and that not everyone’s grief will follow this trajectory.

The author Vicki Harris describes grief as being “like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing”. “Sometimes the water is calm,” says Harris, “and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”

Learning to swim

Looking at the stages of grief, acceptance is ultimately what any grieving person is working towards. For many people, learning to live without the person they have lost is something they explicitly do not want to do. For these people, accepting the fact that their loved one is no longer physically here feels like something that is disrespectful towards the person they have lost, and is not honouring their loved one’s memory.

A person who is stuck in their grief may feel persistently depressed about the loss they have experienced, not seeing a way out of the sadness that constantly overwhelms them.

If you feel like you are stuck in grief, these five tips may be of help to you:

  • Respect your loss: Paying respect to a loved one is an important part of accepting the loss. You can do this by creating a memorial space to serve as a reminder of your loved one, or by journaling or writing them a letter.
  • Prioritise your self-care: After spending so much time making the care of your loved one a priority, it can be exceptionally difficult to shift the focus to self-care. This is very important, though, not just for your physical health, but also for your mental wellbeing. Practice good self-care by eating well, staying active (even a short walk makes a huge difference) and steering clear of addictive substances that numb your feelings.
  • Be kind to yourself: This is not the time to ruminate on what you could have done differently while your loved one was ill. Of course, hindsight will bring its own lessons, but there is no point in beating yourself up about things you did or didn’t do.
  • Reach out: Even if it might feel like you are having a singular experience that no one will truly understand, grief is central to the human experience, and everyone will have to deal with it at some stage. Speak to someone you can trust about the emotions you are experiencing, and reach out to a mental health professional if you find yourself consumed by grief and unable to move forward.

COVID-19 has had a profound effect on the way we deal with loss. If someone passes away in hospital, chances are that their loved ones won’t be able to say goodbye to them like they’d normally be able to. The rituals associated with loss, like memorial services and funerals, have also been significantly affected by the pandemic.

This means that we will all have to learn to create our own customs to deal with our loss. Remember, even if it may feel so, you are never alone.

The loss of someone close to us is something that deeply affects us. Learning to swim without them by our side is difficult, but not impossible – especially when we realise that there are plenty of other people who also have to navigate these stormy waters.

If you need to speak to someone about your grief, feel free to contact the South African Depresson and Anxiety Group (SADAG) by calling 0800 12 13 14.  

Four remarkable and notable women in medicine

Despite the fairer sex traditionally being considered more caring, there is still a significant discrepancy in terms of women actually being acknowledged for the important contributions they have made to the world of medicine.

On the Health Awareness annual calendar, there are now several dates that celebrate women. In May, there were three such dates: 5 May was the International Day of the Midwife, International Nurses Day was celebrated on May 12th, and the International Day of Action for Women’s Health was commemorated on 28th May.

Women these days are breaking barriers, trendsetters and have proven that nothing is impossible. Some of the best surgeons, specialists and doctors nowadays are women. Women are remarkable and are constantly making a difference in the medical field. We celebrate you. We salute you.

In this vein, we’d like to highlight four women who have made important contributions to medicine.


Not much is known about Peseshet, but historians believe she lived during the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt, between 2613 BC and 2494 BC. Peseshet was known as the “lady overseer of the female physicians”, and may even have had a hand in training midwives. She is considered to be the earliest known female physician in ancient Egypt.


Credited with penning the oldest medical text known to be written by a female doctor, “On the Diseases and Cures of Women,”  Metrodora was a Greek physician who lived somewhere between 200 and 400 AD. Influenced by Hippocrates, Metrodora developed revolutionary surgical techniques and therapies, also influencing numerous physicians that came after her.

Marie Curie

The discoveries that Marie Curie and her husband Pierre made about polonium and radium would ultimately famously lead to the development of one of the modern era’s greatest medical discoveries – the X-ray. Marie Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize twice (in 1903 for Physics, and for Chemistry in 1911), and the Parisian Curie Institute, which she founded in 1920, remains one of the most prominent cancer research facilities in the world today. 

Florence Nightingale

Considered the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale is colloquially known as “The Lady With the Lamp”. International Nurses Day falls on Nightingale’s date of birth. The foundations she laid for nursing care would also become part and parcel of hospice care when Dame Cicely Saunders founded the first modern hospice care facility in the 1960s.

We salute the many women who have had a role to play in the development of modern medicine, and also tip our hats to the millions of women working in healthcare today.

7 TED Talks that will give you new insight into healthcare

The way we care for our sick has changed drastically over the past century, and there is innovation in the healthcare sector every day.

These 7 TED Talks take a look at some of the most interesting innovations and insights gathered about palliative care over the past few years, and will leave you in awe of human reason and compassion.

1. How to meaningfully reconnect with those who have dementia – Anne Basting

A dementia diagnosis can provide a wonderful opportunity to open a shared path to discovery, and to how caregivers can make meaning of a condition usually associated with loss, says Anne Basting.

2. The hidden role informal caregivers play in health care – Scott Williams

Scott Williams shares the crucial role informal caregivers play in the bigger scheme of healthcare and social systems across the globe.

3. A tribute to nurses – Carolyn Jones

Carolyn Jones pays homage to nurses after five years of documenting their work in the United States.

4. Stories from a home for terminally ill children – Kathy Hull

The founder of the first freestanding paediatric palliative care facility in America talks about the beauty and heartbreak of caring for children with terminal illnesses.

5. What we can do to die well – Timothy Ihrig

Palliative care workers will identify with the thoughts Timothy Ihrig shares about caring for patients with life-limiting illness.

6. We need a heroic narrative for death – Amanda Bennett

Facing death needn’t be something that isn’t still brimming with life, argues Amanda Bennett in this touching talk.

7. How I’m preparing to get Alzheimer’s – Alanna Shaikh

Instead of fearing an Alzheimer’s diagnosis later in life after a parent was diagnosed with the disease, Alanna Shaikh is preparing for the possibility in a way that goes against traditional views of terminal illness.

Important Information if your loved one has Dementia

Used as a catchall term for a number of different conditions, dementia is a condition that affects some of the patients receiving palliative care from HospiceWits.   

Dementia includes progressive and terminal conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, Lewy body dementia, or a combination of these.

It is important to note that each type of dementia comes with a particular set of characteristic symptoms, which may overlap in some cases.

Alzheimer’s disease

Perhaps the most widely studied form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease starts in the brain many years before its symptoms are actually expressed. Although Alzheimer’s is sometimes diagnosed in younger people, 60% to 70% of cases appear in people who are older than 60 years of age.

Some of the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s include:

  • Memory problems: The ability to form new memories is usually the first to go, with memories from the recent past becoming fractured.
  • Problems with executive functions: People with Alzheimer’s may have difficulty planning, organising, or thinking logically, finding themselves getting lost in time and space.
  • General difficulties with regard to space and time, for example wanting a gin and tonic at 5:00 in the morning.
  • Language difficulty: Patients may have trouble expressing themselves or comprehending what others are saying.

Frontotemporal dementia

40% to 50% of patients with frontotemporal dementia have a strong genetic disposition towards the condition. Early-onset frontotemporal dementia may affect people under 60 years of age.

Some of the symptoms associated with frontotemporal dementia include:

  • Behavioural changes: Patients may exhibit apathy, a loss of empathy with others, changes in diet, and impaired planning and judgement.
  • Language difficulties: Patients may find themselves unable to understand language or produce speech.

Lewy body dementia

In cases of Parkinson’s disease, protein deposits called Lewy bodies occur in the part of the brain that is involved in movement. In the case of Lewy body dementia, these same protein deposits occur in the cells of the brain’s cerebral cortex.

Some of the symptoms associated with Lewy body dementia include:

  • Fluctuating cognitive changes
  • Loss of attention
  • Changes in visual special awareness
  • Hallucinations
  • Sleep disorders
  • Some of the physical or motor features of Parkinson’s disease, like tremors.

Vascular dementia

This condition stems from accumulated damage to the blood vessels in the brain – the nervous system is very sensitive to damage like this – caused by the blockage of small vessels or bleeds in the brain that lead to periods of oxygen depletion.

Vascular dementia can be characterised by periods of functional deterioration, interspersed with periods of relative stability.

The different stages of dementia, and how to provide care to patients

Dementia may progress in various stages, and understanding these stages allows carers and loved ones to make sense of the individual with dementia’s journey.

Stage one: Mild dementia

A person’s cognitive functioning or thinking is affected. This may include things like changes in memory, planning, judgement, mood, insight and communication. This is often the time when a diagnosis is made.

How to provide care and support: Focus on independence, autonomy, and planning for the patient’s future.

Stage two: Moderate dementia

One may see an increase in symptoms from stage one, as well as the onset of psychological and behavioural symptoms.

How to provide care and support: Safety considerations become vital, for example, not leaving the patient alone, putting security on gates and outside doors, and making sure that plugs and kitchen appliances are out of reach.

Stage three: Advanced dementia

Progressive impairment of nerve impulses starts affecting the working of the muscles. This can affect mobility, chewing, swallowing, continence, and other physical functions like contractures. During this stage, the patient will most likely require progressive assistance with daily living, and is at an increased risk of infections.

How to provide care and support: Comfort and the relief of the physical symptoms related with dementia become the focus now. Loved ones or carers may decide to use the arts as a means of communication when this becomes difficult for patients. For example, singing, dancing, tactile attention (touch) and hearing music or poems from the patient’s youth may help to settle them down.

To find out how HospiceWits can assist a loved one with dementia, please contact us here.


Mr Alan Loomes was first introduced to HospiceWits in 1999 through our Architect Nicholas Whitcutt to launch the construction of our training centre at Mofolo Clinic complex in Soweto.

The project was sponsored by funds generously donated by the Japanese Government and complimented the containers that housed at least 15 patients.  

The complex of two lecture rooms and administration offices were built by Alan and his teams, and many students have since benefitted from our Hospice Palliative care program, and our current Anciliary training courses.

Alan was invited to join the HospiceWits Board of Trustees in 2004, during which time he spent some two years prospecting for a suitable site for a Hospice Flagship Clinic, which was finally found in Diepkloof, Soweto. Together with the Hospice Team of Carers, a tender was submitted to the Johannesburg Property Company, and was duly accepted.

Together with the late Hymie Moross, Architect, the Diepkloof Hospice was built with the help of the donations from the National Lottery Board, many local institutions/organisations and International Governments.

HospiceWits in Soweto officially opened its doors in March 2007, consisting of a Paediatric IPU, a Male/Female Adult IPU and offering Homecare nursing to patients in the comfort of their own homes.

A highlight of Alan’s time with HospiceWits was when he hosted a royal visit from Her Highness, Princess Caroline of Monaco, who supports international institutions where children are a strong inclusion.

All of this would not have happened without the teamwork and support from the Hospice staff at that time, represented by Barbara Campbell-Ker, the Executive Director.

In the last number of years, Alan was enticed back by the current CEO, Jacqui Kaye, to offer his time, skills and experience in assisting HospiceWits to source potential tenants for our Soweto site, advising on cost saving initiatives, being in contact with the Johannesburg Property Company to ensure compliance and maintaining good working relationships, and engaging on our behalf with small businesses in the Soweto community. Alan was instrumental in securing and negotiating with BGM Renal Care to lease a portion of the Diepkloof site out as a Renal Dialysis Clinic. His untimely death means that Alan will not be able to stand tall and proud when the clinic is launched. His absence will be felt and his major contribution will be shared and appreciated.

HospiceWits had the honour of partnering with a hardworking, trustworthy, passionate and reliable person in Mr Alan Loomes, and we deeply mourn his loss. He always arrived with a smile, entertained with humour, and left having touched our lives in a positive way.

Our condolences to Merle and his family at this time, as well as to his partners and colleagues, who will continue to uphold his legacy.

  It was with deep regret that I received your note informing us of the sad passing of Alan Loomes. May his dear soul R.I.P and I would appreciate you conveying to his wife, Merle in Knysna, my deepest sympathies and the wish that his dear soul rests in peace.   Alan did so much for HospiceWits. May this be a blessing for his soul and for his heart- broken family he has left behind.   He will always be remembered and I think it would be a fitting tribute to his memory that Alan and what he did for HospiceWits is never forgotten.   Michael Judin
  Alan’s work and his passion for HospiceWits was by no means concluded. His warm smile and his jovial personality will be remembered with fondness. He is already sorely missed by me and all at HospiceWits.   Jacqui Kaye : CEO
Board Members:   Our heartfelt condolences to the Loomes family and the hospice family- indeed a sad loss to all.                                                                              Esme Pudule   Condolences to all affected by this sad news.           Hiten Keshave   My sincere condolences to Merle – very sad news indeed.      Dr Brad Beira

HospiceWits and Polofields Crossing Book Fair a huge success

It has been a month since the first HospiceWits Book Fair took place at the Polofields Crossing shopping centre in Johannesburg, on 20 and 21 March, and we are still basking in the glory of this long weekend fundraising effort.

Thanks to support from local shoppers, HospiceWits was able to “re-home” thousands of books, allowing book lovers to fill some space on their bookshelves, while also contributing to a good cause. All funds raised over the weekend went towards the operational expenses associated with the palliative care HospiceWits provides to patients in and around Johannesburg.

We were lucky to have seasoned disc jockey Mark Pilgrim of Hot 91.9 FM with us over the weekend, which certainly created the festive atmosphere we were hoping for. Literary buffs arrived in droves, and we were also able to spoil a few lucky shoppers with vouchers to use at some Polofields Crossing retailers.

If you weren’t able to join the literary fun this time, please keep an eye on our Facebook page for news about similar upcoming events – if all goes well, we’ll have a spring Book Fair just as soon as the weather turns a little warmer again.

In the meantime, please remember that you can find quality pre-loved reading material at any of our HospiceWits shops, located around Johannesburg and at the Rosebank Flea Market. We are always happy to accept donations of any kind, including second-hand books, and are grateful for your support in helping to raise the critical funds we need, to do our vital work.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to Polofields Crossing and to every shopper who dropped by on Saturday and Sunday. If we had to review you, we’d offer no less than five stars!

How older people can stay healthy as winter approaches

The pandemic has drawn our attention to the importance of staying healthy through the winter months – and this is especially true for people who are older, or those who are suffering from life-limiting illnesses.

This winter, the focus will not only fall on preventing the flu, as is normally the case this time of year, but with the need to take additional measures to also protect ourselves against COVID-19.

The following are a few suggestions to help keep you and your loved ones healthy and safe this winter:

  1. Stay warm

Older people don’t have the same ability to tolerate fluctuating temperatures as they did when they were younger, and need something extra to stay warm. In this regard, caretakers and family members will find that a few layers of clothing instead of a single chunky layer is more efficient, along with an extra blanket or two on the bed and on the chair.

If you’re using hot water bottles or an electric blanket in bed, take care not to use these two together, and make sure that the heat of the electric blanket is not turned up too high, to prevent burns.

  • If possible, stay active

Another way of staying warm when temperatures drop is to stay active. During the day, when it is more bearable to do so, a quick walk around the garden can do wonders for the body.  It can also invigorate the mind and do a lot to soothe mental health issues, like depression or anxiety. If a person isn’t able to walk by him or herself anymore, even simple armchair exercises may be enough to get the heart rate up and the blood pumping.

  • Ensure they are eating a healthy diet

Our eating habits play an important role in our overall health.  Even though we tend to gravitate towards hearty, carbohydrate-rich meals like stews, we should try and ensure that older people, and those living with life-limiting illnesses, still consume plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit as part of a healthy diet. If needs be, and if recommended by a primary care physician, use supplements (vitamins B, C, D, along with zinc and probiotics) as well as nutritional shakes to make up for any shortfalls.

  • Stay hydrated

It is easier to ensure that our loved ones are drinking enough water in summer, but making sure they are hydrated can prove more difficult during the colder months. While we all tend to drink more hot beverages like coffee and tea in the winter, it is important to remember that caffeinated drinks can lead to dehydration, which can lead to further problems. Keep track of the amount of water being consumed every day to prevent this.

It goes without saying that people are more likely to get sick in winter than they are in summer. When it comes to older family members, it is especially important to ensure that they stay healthy. Simple things like good eating habits and some activity during the day make a huge difference when it comes to overall health and wellbeing.  Remember to show you care by visiting them and making regular phone calls.

To find out more about the palliative care services offered by HospiceWits in the greater Johannesburg region, click here.

How can HospiceWits help you become a qualified carer?

Aside from providing care that meets the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families residing in the greater Johannesburg region, HospiceWits also offers the opportunity to gain the qualifications that are necessary to start a professional journey as a carer.

HospiceWits, in association with the Centre for Palliative Learning (CPL) and Healthcare Skills Development, presents aspiring carers with accredited courses that equip the students with the range of the skills required to enter this profession.

All courses are presented by Francois De Marcy Pugin, the supervisor at our CPL, a registered nurse general, community and psychiatry, an accoucher, and also the Quality Assurance Coordinator for HospiceWits.

Accredited courses

Accredited courses offer students the opportunity to start the journey of becoming a qualified nurse, whilst also gaining qualifications in home-based care. Students are able to gain their nursing qualification at an institute of Higher Education after graduating from our NQF Level 3 course (L3 Home-Based Personal Carer).

  • L2 Assisted Home-Based Personal Carer

This NQF Level 2 accredited course entails six months of full-time training, practical work and work skills placement. The theoretical component of the course is presented via face-to-face sessions, while the practical component takes place both at HospiceWits’ in-patient facility and with patients who receive home-based care. The minimum entry requirement for this course is grade 9 (with a pass in English) or an ABET learner qualification in NQF Level 1.

Credits earned: 70

Cost: R19 000

  • L3 Home-Based Personal Carer

The L3 Home-Based Personal Carer course further qualifies a person in home-based care, and consists of 12 months of full-time training, practicals and work skills placement. Just like the L2 Assisted Home-Based Personal Carer course, the theoretical component of the L3 Home-Based Personal Carer course is presented via face-to-face sessions, with the practical component taught at HospiceWits’ in-patient facility and with patients who receive home-based care. The minimum entry requirement for this course is matric with passing grades in English and Maths (core or literacy).

Credits earned: 135

Cost: R27 000

Please take note that registration for any of HospiceWits’ accredited courses is always open – please see the first semester course start dates for the accredited NQF Level 2 and Level 3 courses by clicking here and scrolling down to the table.

Also click here to see a detailed breakdown of each accredited and non-accredited course on offer, and send an email to for more information or to get registration forms.

Here’s how HospiceWits’s short courses can set you on a path to provide care in your community

South Africa’s healthcare services were already overburdened and overstretched before COVID-19 struck, but the pandemic has made the need for adequate healthcare and supportive therapeutic skills in our communities even more acute.

HospiceWits, in association with the Centre for Palliative Learning and Healthcare Skills Development, aims to fill this gap by equipping people with the skills needed to provide care in their communities through a range of short, non-accredited courses.

All courses are presented by Francois De Marcy Pugin, the supervisor at our CPL, a registered nurse general, community and psychiatry, an accoucher, and also the Quality Assurance Coordinator for HospiceWits.

Non-accredited courses

The short, non-accredited courses offered through HospiceWits’ training department provide the opportunity for adult-based learning, self-enhancement and learning development. By completing these courses, students equip themselves with professional, supportive and therapeutic skills to utilise within their communities and alleviate the burden on South African healthcare systems, which are especially under pressure at the moment. All non-accredited courses are NQF Level 1.

  • Ancillary Healthcare Workers Course (AHC)

This course’s duration is 10 days (over a three-month period) and has both a theoretical (conducted via face-to-face sessions) and a practical component, which touch on the following aspects related to home care:

– General hygiene in the home.

– Bed bathing, bed making, and making sure the patient is comfortable at all times.

– Mouth care and proper cleaning procedures.

– Prevention of bedsores by regular massage of body parts and changing positions.

– Temperature, pulse, respiration and blood pressure.

– Basic nutrition and education to family members about what to feed the patient.

– Care of the dying, preparation of the family and patients, unfinished matters.

– HIV/AIDS and TB. 

– Foundational anatomy and physiology. 

– Professional communication as opposed to social communication. 

– Patient rights and dignity. 

Assessments, assignments and tests will be written, and a certificate will be issued upon completion.

Cost: R4700

  • Community Home-Based Palliative Care Introduction Course (PHBC)

Also completed in 10 days over a three-month period, the PHBC has a theoretical (conducted via face-to-face sessions) and a practical component, which equip students with the following skills relating to home care.

– General hygiene in the home.

– Bed bathing, bed making and making sure the patient is comfortable at all times.

– Mouth care and proper cleaning procedures.

– Prevention of bedsores by regular massage of body parts and changing positions.

– Temperature, pulse, respiration and blood pressure (BP).

– Basic nutrition and education to family members about what to feed the patient.

– Care of the dying, preparation of the family and patients, unfinished matters.

– Professional communication as opposed to social communication.

– Patient rights and dignity.

– Palliative care to persons with life-threatening illnesses; includes symptom management, pain control, medication management and much more.

Assessments, assignments and tests will be written, and a certificate will be issued upon completion.

Cost: R4700

  • Anticipated Grief, Loss and Bereavement Course (GLB)

Aimed at supporting both adults and children, the theoretical component of these courses is presented via face-to-face workshops. The course helps students:

– To increase knowledge and understanding of grief, loss and bereavement.

– To develop insight into grief through the ages.

– To learn new and creative ways of supporting the bereaved.

– To develop new insights and skills for grief and bereavement support.

– To enhance self-awareness.

Cost: Adults – R2500, Children – R2500

  • Dementia Course (DEM)

This two-day workshop equips caregivers to offer appropriate supportive care to people who have dementia-related conditions. The course has theoretical and practical components.

Cost: R2500

  • Practical Nursing Care Course (PNC)

This 10-day workshop introduces students to basic nursing procedures, including but not limited to:

– Bed bathing, bed making, and making sure the patient is comfortable at all times.

– Mouth care and proper cleaning procedures.

– Prevention of bedsores by regular massage of body parts and changing positions.

– Temperature, pulse, respiration and blood pressure.

– Basic nutrition and education to family members about what to feed the patient.

Cost: R2500

Please take note that registration for any of HospiceWits’ non-accredited courses is always open. Non-accredited courses will start once the course intake is full, and dates will be communicated in due course in this regard.

Click here to see a detailed breakdown of each accredited and non-accredited course on offer, and send an email to for more information or to get registration forms.

How to take care of your mental health when you’re in the midst of mourning

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago has brought with it many lessons. The most painful of these has probably been learning to cope with grief. Of course, the families and friends of people who pass away from a terminal illness know this hard process all too well.

How does one cope with the immense impact of grief brought about by the death of a loved one?  During this very difficult and emotional grieving process, how do we take care of our mental wellbeing?

As we navigate the sadness that the impact of the coronavirus brings with it, here are a few tips to make sure you take care of your mental health.

Try to manage anticipatory grief

Grief expert and author David Kessler describes a lot of what we are feeling now as anticipatory grief, which is a common reaction when the future is uncertain. For example, when someone we love is diagnosed with a terminal illness, one of the strong underlying emotions is anxiety, which can greatly hamper a person’s mental wellbeing.

Kessler recommends that people who feel this way should try not to allow their minds to wander to thoughts about the future, but instead to remain in the present. Mindfulness practices such as meditation are very helpful techniques to learn, which will help alleviate symptoms of anticipatory grief, like anxiety.

Self-care is key

While it may be extremely difficult to take care of oneself after experiencing the immense loss of a loved one, self-care is very important,  and even just exercising basic techniques of meditation, relaxation or other means to de-stress oneself can be helpful.

Ensuring that you remain hydrated, eat regular meals, and are getting enough rest will strengthen you through the grieving process by keeping your immunity boosted and strong, which will aid you in fighting off infections. Even spending some time languishing in a bath with aromatherapy oils and bath salts, and practising calming breathing techniques can be relaxing and healing.

Recognise that grief takes time

Going through the steps that traditionally constitute the grieving process is a timeous affair.  According to Dr Kubler Ross, there are traditionally five steps in the process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is also important to acknowledge the sixth step, often unbeknown to us, which is litigation. Someone needs to be blamed for what is happening to us and for the loss that we are experiencing. The financial bills that are piling up from medical treatment, funerals and unplanned expenditures can lead to great social anxieties. Fear of things like losing your house or reliable transport, and depression can all contribute to feelings of isolation and being alone in your grief. No matter the order in which you experience them, the grieving process itself takes time. Acknowledge that life without your loved one will never be the same, but that it will take time to get used to this fact. The reality is that the impact of your loss never really diminishes or disappears completely, but rather that one adjusts life to live around the circle of grief and loss.

Reach out

The pandemic has made it difficult to honour some of the traditions we have embraced when saying goodbye to a loved one, which has made it especially hard to grieve in the ways we are used to. Even so, reaching out to family and friends to share the grief you are feeling can be vital in not letting the isolation that COVID-19 requires get to us.

Discuss your grief with the people you stay with, and get in touch with others via telephone or video call. If feelings of grief are causing you mental distress, do not hesitate to contact a professional counsellor, therapist or psychologist.

Sihlangene is HospiceWits’s specialist psychosocial team, comprising a qualified general practitioner with a postgraduate specialist qualification in palliative medicine, a psychiatric nurse, specialist frontline workers, management, coordinators, and a diverse group of counsellors hailing from various training backgrounds and with varied experience. Sihlangene provides psychosocial care to HospiceWits patients and to their loved ones, as well as to members of our communities.

If you would like to find out more about Sihlangene’s services, please contact our office on 011 483 9100 or send an email to