Tag Archives: grief

An Rx for Hope

She was smiling when she entered the soundproof booth. “You were right; your hearing is better. But when I reviewed your diagnosis before you came in, I expected to give you bad news. Tell me what you did.”

I’ve fielded that question many times since. My short answer is, “Everything. And then some.”

It was late in the spring of 2021 when I suddenly lost hearing in my right ear. Standing in my kitchen, chatting with a friend, my ear died, as I described it at the time. I assumed it was simply clogged and would clear up. But it didn’t. I casually mentioned it to a friend who told me she knew someone else it happened to and urged me to seek medical attention immediately or the damage would be permanent. Susan texted me, emailed me, and left voicemails. I told her to stop; I was nervous enough without her harping.

An intuitive friend told me my hearing loss was caused by unresolved grief. My 12-year-old golden retriever had died a few months before, compounding my sense of COVID isolation. I wanted to believe she was right: If I just cried more, releasing the trauma of loss, I’d heal.

So, I cried more – over my dog and my ear – but my disability remained. Thanks to Susan’s persistence, I called seven different ENT offices explaining that I believed I had sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) and must see a specialist immediately. One-by-one, they offered appointments weeks and months off. I begged; they couldn’t get me in sooner. Until one offered an appointment within the week. The right one, I’d soon realize.

By my appointment date, I was a wreck. I couldn’t follow conversations in public places; TV and radio sounded fuzzy. I couldn’t distinguish where sounds were coming from or what they were. My dad had been a teacher of the deaf, and I feared that would be my fate by some cruel coincidence. My online research indicated that my age, hypertension, and delay in getting treatment could all work against a full recovery. Plus, I suddenly knew of three other people who never regained their hearing after a similar episode.

The doctor examined me, then sent me down the hall to an audiologist who confirmed the diagnosis of SSHL (or sudden deafness) caused by damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve. This mysterious syndrome is not new, but only 10% of cases have an identifiable cause (hence idiopathic). Over 200,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the United States, most common among those 40-60 years of age.

Her report concluded I was a candidate for a hearing aid.

My heart raced as the doctor prescribed low-dose short-term steroids to reduce inflammation – because both the cause and the treatment are speculative. I told him I’d read that as high as 50% of reported cases never fully recover, and he calmly assured me I could regain my hearing; it was definitely possible, he said. While acknowledging the importance of early treatment, he told me about a man who’d waited a year to seek medical attention and still regained some hearing. This busy specialist sat in a chair and talked with me until I ran out of questions and concerns. He told me his colleagues call him “the nervous-patient whisperer”.

What he gave me was a prescription for hope.

Afterward, I thanked Susan for being relentless and told her how reassuring the doctor had been. She repeatedly interjected, “That’s not what Dottie’s doctor told her.” I told her I couldn’t afford to have words of doubt and fear seep into my ear canals. I turned inward, reflecting on what my other friend had said about grief and knew there was some truth to that as well. I committed to a regimen of Western and Eastern healing modalities to restore my hearing.

In addition to the steroids, I enlisted Reiki, craniosacral therapy, holistic chiropractic, essential oils, acupressure, herbal and vitamin supplements, journaling, affirmations, and visioning. I prayed and donned a holy medal. I openly grieved the passing of my dog, even crying in stores if a trigger presented. But the greatest tools I had in my arsenal were hope and gratitude. Hope, first generously bestowed by my ENT doctor, was amplified by my healing circle who offered their encouragement, wisdom, and skills. And new-found gratitude for every sound that was slowly returning; chirping birds filled me with such joy.

Four months later, the audiologist confirmed that my hearing had been restored in all but the high-pitched 8th kHz, which has also improved since. I told her and my doctor how I’d supplemented the prednisone; neither dismissed their possible effect. Friends more scientifically-inclined than I suggest I should have introduced one treatment at a time so I’d know what worked. But why not use every available resource according to what we are intuitively guided to do? They all kept my hope alive – the most powerful of all healers.

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Patricia A. Nugent

January 2023

Follow this blog at http://www.journalartsspress.com.


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For Better AND Worse

My parents were similar in one way: They both wanted to be “in charge.” From my perspective as an adolescent, they should have had one date and then said to each other, “It was so nice to meet you. I hope you have a wonderful life.” Instead, they were married for over 60 years, til death did them part.

After much reflection, I realize that my book, They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad, is a love story about my parents’ final days – a love story with the all-too-common theme that “you don’t know what you have ’til it’s gone.” It wasn’t until my parents died that I realized that I had never before understood their relationship and most likely had discounted it unfairly.

Here is the story of their last anniversary together, on January 24, as relayed in my book.

Poor Girl

She is so sick that he does not recognize her. My sister and I wheel him up to her bedside and still he does not realize that this is his wife.

“Who is this?” he asks. “Where’s the other one?”

My sister and I inappropriately start laughing, out of sheer exhaustion. We quickly gain control and convince Dad that this shell is his wife. He becomes sorrowful and tender. He holds her hand, kisses her, shouts “I love you” in her ear, and tries to feed her. He tenderly touches her face and neck, telling her that she’s beautiful.

“How are you feeling, dear? OK?” He is so used to her being so strong and expects her bravado to re-emerge. She is comatose.

It is their 63rd wedding anniversary.

We sit for a while until he reluctantly agrees to leave, only after being promised he can soon return. She shows no acknowledgement, save for the tear in the corner of her eye, which he dabs with a tissue.

Later that night, I stop to see him and find him crying in bed. Without prompting, he explains, “I didn’t know it was her. I couldn’t believe it.” I tell him I understand.

“I love her,” he says. “I really love that girl.”

I start to tell him more specifics about her medical status, but he stops me. “Don’t,” he says and keeps repeating, “Poor girl. Poor girl.” He knows his 88-year-old “girl” is leaving him, but he doesn’t want to know the gory details.

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Why Wouldn’t We Expect?

Why wouldn’t we expect

Thunder and lightening

When someone like this

Has been taken from us?


Why wouldn’t we expect

A downpour of rain

As the heavens give credibility

To our own tears?


Why wouldn’t we expect

That the universal energy

Has been forever shifted

By the vacuum that has been created?


And why wouldn’t we expect

The blue sky and sun to return

When a smile has been lifted up

To now shine down on the whole world?

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Cry into the Darkness

Cry into the darkness.
Feel your pain as you gaze into the night sky.
Beg the moon and the stars for mercy.
Feel small and inconsequential.
Face your dark night, recognizing that this is where you are to be right now.

Feel the full impact of hope and disappointment.
And wonder if they are mutually exclusive.
Cry, mourn.
Remember the stages of loss.
Remember the stages of life.

Excerpt from They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad © 2010

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Go Ahead and Cry

Many people have told me that they’re trying not to grieve the loss of our friend and yogi, but instead celebrate her life. That’s a noble and admirable goal, yet it’s also important to allow ourselves to grieve.

Our society doesn’t fully honor the death of an elderly person, labeling it as “the natural order of things.” Did you think they would last forever? is the unspoken question. In truth, we did. And that can leave us feeling disenfranchised and alone in our grief.

Unresolved residual grief must be expressed or it comes out sideways in our health, relationships, and/or work. We’re sometimes reluctant to allow ourselves a good cry because once the flood gates open, we fear we may never get them closed again. But we do, and feel so much better for it.

The therapeutic benefits of cleansing ourselves of bottled-up grief – simply by crying and talking about it – are immeasurable and essential to a healthy mind and body. Isak Dinesen wrote in Seven Gothic Tales, “The cure for anything is salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea.” Mana seemed to know that; she would tell us to “release the toxins.”

She not only honored the light in us – she honored the darkness in each of us as well, helping so many find their way through life’s challenges.

So, go ahead and cry. It’s good for all of us.


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