The end of life can be an ambivalent time for most family members, full of mixed emotions among family members and sometimes even contradictory feelings within yourself. There may be sadness that the loved one is no longer physically with us, yet relief that he or she is no longer suffering. Tears and sadness about the loss of life are common, but so is laughter and smiles at fond memories of a life well-lived.
Blessing Hospice has a unique bereavement follow-up program that is offered to the families of our former patients. For 13 months our staff maintains contact with a patients’ loved one, whether it be a spouse, a child, or another close family member or friend. The level of communication depends on the bereaved individual’s wants and needs. This follow-up care can include any combination of the following: monthly mailings of a grief newsletter called Journeys, an invitation to our yearly memorial service, other mailings, phone calls, and visits from a hospice staff member throughout the 13 month timeframe. Some families feel they are doing well- perhaps receiving support from a spiritual advisor or support group- and decline some of these services. Some families find that the continued contact with someone involved with the care of their loved one is a welcome transition from life with to life without.
Many might wonder: Why 13 months? Quite simply, it is to offer support during the year of “firsts.” The first month following loss often is filled with phone calls, visits from neighbors, and tidying up affairs after the funeral. That second month, we often find that phone calls and visits taper off, and that becomes a natural time for our licensed social workers and pastors to make sure that the family knows we are still available to offer support. The initial year without a loved one is full of firsts: the first birthday without a spouse or a first wedding without a sibling in the family photo. Every day is a first day without that loved one and the beginnings of finding your “new normal.”
Our bereavement follow up allows family members to talk about your loss with a grief specialist who holds an objective point of view. Perhaps some friends and family are saying that it is time to start moving on or are not acknowledging that we are all entitled to grieve in our own ways. And often, we don’t want “be a bother” to family and friends or to appear to be “dwelling” on the loss.
Our staff is honored to be a part of your loved ones’ final days, and we are honored to be a part of your first days without him or her. We understand that there is no timeframe for grief and there is not a “one size fits all” pattern to grief. We are proud to support you and to empower you to experience emotions as they come, from fear to anger to acceptance and the entire gamut in between.