Bereavement Services are an Integral Part of Hospice Care
By Heartand Hospice Care
Death, dying, and suffering are at best difficult, but often taboo subjects. According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, hospice is considered the model for quality, compassionate care for people facing a serious or life-limiting illness or injury. Hospice involves a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes. [https://www.nhpco.org/hospice-care-overview]
Working with a hospice team, bereavement counselors and supervised volunteers can be immeasurably helpful in navigating some of the feelings that arise when an individual or loved one has a life-threatening illness. Recognizing that in the course of an illness, multiple losses are experienced, Heartland Hospice’s philosophy is to provide grief and loss support to community members, families, patients, and employees at the beginning of admission.
Sarah Feldbruegge, Heartland Hospice Bereavement Care Coordinator, said families report marked relief in having a team who helps with comfort, confusion, and questions--without judgment--as they manage end of life experiences. “Families often say that they feel less alone when they receive bereavement services. The reassurance of knowing the breadth of emotions and mental or physical symptoms they are experiencing is normal helps patients and families feel less alone at such a difficult time,” said Feldbruegge.
Feldbruegge and her fellow bereavement care counselors at Heartland offer supportive bereavement care to family members and loved ones for up to thirteen months after the death of their loved one. Bereaved services include, but are not limited to, face-to-face visits, support calls, grief support groups, grief support mailings, educational events, and memorial services.
“I’m honored every time a person opens up to me and shares a piece of their story,” said Feldbruegge. “Sometimes people share about how they met their spouse, the journey that led them to hospice, or they share stories of triumphs and losses they’ve had throughout their life,” she said. Feldbruegge says as she listens, she highlights the emotions behind the words and then challenges individual’s thoughts when they’re stuck on one way of looking at situations. “One of the most fulfilling experiences I have in my work is hearing and/or seeing people become more comfortable with their emotions,” she said.
Feldbruegge says there are some things she wishes people knew about bereavement care, hospice, and end of life experiences: Bereavement support is free and available to anyone who desires to have it; Hospice and end of life care is focused on providing the best quality of life to individuals and their families. “Hospice is about comfort care and bereavement services are an integral part of that package,” said Feldbruegge. “Emotions are not your enemy! Please do not keep yourself busy to the point that you don’t give yourself time to process your emotions,” she said. And lastly, Feldbruegge wants bereaved to know they will find joy in their lives again. “It may not feel that way for quite some time,” she said, “but you will.”