Not all hospice agencies have bereavement programs as extensive as Heart ‘n Home’s Program. We have a Pre-Bereavement Program and bereavement support for 13 months after a death. There is a variety of support from bi-monthly letters, to bereavement support groups, and ultimately one-on-one counselling with our Traumatic Grief & Loss Specialists.
Recently a patient was admitted to our services and during his admission we asked him what his biggest concern was. “I worry about how my granddaughters are going to do with all of this,” he said. His two young granddaughters had been living with him and he worried how they would deal with his passing. As Care Navigators, Tamara and I, scheduled a joint visit, but prior to that, we called the mother of the girls and completed a Pre-Death Children’s Grief Assessment. Doing this allowed the mom to express her concerns for her children and gave us a starting point for our work with them. Even though they are twins, the work with each of them was a little bit different. With our explanation and education, and with the mother on board, an environment of trust and respect was created for the work that could be done.
At the initial visit, we helped the family create a handprint tree. The patient, his wife, his son, his daughter, his daughter-in-law, and then his two four-year-old granddaughters placed their handprints on a canvas. The girls were very excited to “paint” Papa’s hand and help him place it on the canvas. The family took photos as they were doing this and were very appreciative of this process. We also delivered the Heart ‘n Home Children’s Bereavement Bags and talked about what was in them. It was shortly after this that the patient started his final decline.
The next visits were focused on education on what was happening with Papa’s body, going on a nature walk, using puppets to talk about Papa’s dying and possible feelings, and making a memory box. A portion of each visit was spent educating both parents about children’s grief, answering questions, and providing resources.
During these visits, we also used the resources in the bereavement bags to talk about feelings. We used stickers and created a “feelings” page in their journal (and a few stickers ended on each of us…up our arms…on our hands). We taught mindfulness, yoga, and “journaling.” Though they are too young to write, they are not to young to express their thoughts and we were able to write a few things in their journals for them.
The last visit was spent talking about those in their lives who support them. We made a “chain of people” using construction paper and on each link was someone in their lives who cares and loves them. Much to our delight, one of the twins named “Tamara and Sharla” as someone on their chain.