Bereavement

Grief During the Holidays: Some Tips

The winter holidays are generally perceived as “the most wonderful time of the year.” But for those who are facing grief after the death of a loved one, the holidays may instead be a time filled with pain and sadness.

Even those for whom grief is not as fresh, the holidays may serve as an annual reminder of the loss—not only of that person, but of tradition and celebration.Multi Generation Family Meal

Bereavement professionals working in hospice and palliative care understand how difficult this season can be. They support families coping with loss all year long. Bereavement counselors stress the importance of making decisions that feel right to the grieving person, and giving oneself permission to make new or different choices at the holidays.

Experts in Grief offer some tips:

Be Willing to Change Traditions

Holidays often center on certain traditions and rituals. For some, continuing these traditions without a loved one may be an important way to continue sharing their memory. For others, it may be more comforting to develop new rituals to help lessen the pain and immediacy of the loss.

Help Reduce Stress

While the holidays can be filled with meaning, they can also be filled with pressure and stress because of additional tasks such as shopping, baking and decorating. Grieving people should be encouraged to prioritize what needs to be done, and focus on those projects that may bring them pleasure. Perhaps the gift list can be pared down, cards need not be sent out, or another family member can cook the family dinner this year.

Remember those Who Have Died

The holidays can bring opportunities to remember the person who has died in a way that is personally meaningful. Some families choose to participate in holiday events at a local hospice. Others may choose to share special family stories over a meal. Some may find that making a donation to a special charity or volunteering time to help others in need may be a comforting way to honor their loved one.

The professionals at Houston Hospice know of the importance of providing emotional and spiritual support to those who are grieving but most importantly, they remind us that a person grieving should do what’s most comfortable for him or her during this time of year.

Houston Hospice offers a variety of grief support groups as one way to manage grief. All support groups are open to the public at no charge. If you or a loved one need help, please call 713-677-7131 to learn more.

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Holiday Grief: 10 Tips to Navigate the Emotional Minefield

16014834Grief is never more acutely felt than during the holidays, when there is an empty place at the table. As part of its nonprofit outreach, Houston Hospice offers complementary bereavement support to the community. During their pre-holiday workshops, Houston Hospice grief counselors, Marti Nelson and Tammy Zwahr, help the bereaved navigate the minefield of feelings and expectations they’ll encounter with these helpful tips:

HOW WILL I GET THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS?

10 tips for those who are grieving:

  1. Accept the likelihood of your pain. The energy you would spend evading what is going on around you will be more creatively spend adapting to the reality of what this particular season holds for you.
  2. Feel whatever it is you feel. Recognize the fact that something very important has happened in your life which causes reactions within you. Some of the feelings bereaved people feel include: sadness, depression, anxiety, fear, anger, guilt, and apathy.
  3. Express your emotions. The best means of expression is simple: be yourself. Choose people who will listen and respond thoughtfully. Journaling helps get feelings off your chest, clarifies thinking, and monitors your progress. Use music, pray, dance, or create.
  4. Plan ahead. Give yourself permission to change plans as you go. Talk things over with people whom you usually share the holidays.
  5. Take charge where you can. Evaluate holiday traditions. Some changes may be healthy and important to make. Eat healthfully and drink wisely. Maintain an exercise program or begin one. Get the rest you need.
  6. Turn to others for support. Let others know what you think will help you.
  7. Be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself time to rest. Avoid over committing yourself. Pace yourself on good days and give yourself lots of latitude on “bad” days and accept that grieving people have their share of these days.
  8. Remember to remember. You may have a special linking object which you might carry, wear, use, or place in easy sight. Create small remembrance area at home. Look at photos and talk to others about your life together. Remember the deceased in prayer, with a toast, or by lighting a candle at mealtime. Plant a tree or donate to a favorite charity.
  9. Search out and count your blessings. Stay in the present as much as possible. Savor what there is to savor. Cry and then let the tears pass and see what else you feel. Don’t be afraid to laugh.
  10. Do something for others. You can reach out and offer something of what you have and who you are, even if it feels like it’s only a little. Baby sit, cook a meal, or check on shut-ins. You can drive, shovel, telephone, mow, clean, trim, deliver, type, greet, etc. depending on your interests and abilities.

*EMOTIONAL WISH LIST

What would the holidays be like if I could have these wishes granted?

*Adapted from: “Tis The Season to be Jolly?”.  Dr. William Alexy.  Bereavement Magazine, November/December 1989. Reprinted with permission of Bereavement Publishing, Inc. (713-282-1948).

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Share These Helpful Resources For Grief & Loss

Helpful Resources for Grief & Loss
grief and loss

 

 

 

 

 

Taking Care of Yourself Includes Accessing Support

Grief may be experienced in response to physical losses, such as death, or in response to symbolic or social losses such as divorce or loss of a job.  The grief experience can be affected by one’s history and support system. Taking care of yourself and accessing the support of friends and family can help you cope with your grief experience.

There is no right way to grieve. It is an individual process and a natural part of life. Life won’t be the same after a loss, but experiencing your grief will allow you to adjust to life after loss.

Grief lasts as long as it takes to adjust to the changes in your life after your loss. It can be for months, or even years. Grief has no timetable; thoughts, emotions, behaviors and other responses may come and go.

Helpful Resources

Supporting Someone Who is Grieving [PDF]
There is no Wrong or Right Way to Grieve After a Loss [PDF]

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Service of Remembrance Brings Closure for Hospice Worker

Every six months Gloria Garza coordinates a service of remembrance. Gloria’s been putting together these biannual observances for 15 years; since she came to work for Houston Hospice in 2000. CandlesShe invites families, makes sure the ceremony runs smoothly, and organizes a reception with food and punch. At the service on April 30, 2015 at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Wharton, 135 people were remembered. “This event means a lot to our families. They get the opportunity to see the staff that helped them with their loved ones again,” said Gloria. “And, we get to see how the families are doing. After the service, we walk over to the fellowship hall and have refreshments and the families talk to the staff and exchange stories, hugs, tears, and appreciation for the care and for the service they just attended.”

The services of remembrance began when hospice employees realized that both they and the community needed a way to honor their patients and to have closure. After fifteen years of planning some thirty services, the April 30 observance was different for Gloria. As usual prayers were recited, music was played, and, as their loved ones’ names were called, families were invited to the altar to light a candle. However this time, the name of Gloria’s mother, Lena Quintanilla, was among those called.

Lena, the family matriarch, suffered a massive stroke on January 8, 2015. Four days later her doctor told the family there was nothing more they could do. Gloria responded saying, “Call Houston Hospice now.” As a hospice employee, she knew she had a right to select the hospice of her choice, and because she was designated as her mother’s medical power of attorney agent, she knew it was what Lena wanted. “We already talked about what she wanted and what I should do,” said Gloria. “It made it so much easier. I had a hard decision to make. Even if it was not what I wanted, I had to honor what she wanted. She didn’t want to linger. She didn’t want to be a burden.” Gloria feels strongly about Medical Powers of Attorney and Living Wills. After she helps her siblings complete theirs, she plans to speak to community groups and help others, so that their wishes can be carried out should they become incapacitated.

Lena Quintanilla was a doting and energetic mother of five, and she had touched countless lives working as a hospice volunteer since June 2004. “She was a loving and caring mommy to me and to

Gloria Garza and Lena Quintanilla

Gloria Garza and Lena Quintanilla

everyone that knew her. She could cook Spanish rice and hot sauce like no one else. Just ask our El Campo office,” said Gloria. “My father is grappling with how to go on. She did everything for him. They were married for 72 years. She was only 14 and he was 17 when they got married. She did everything around the house. She even paid the bills. All he did was work and he was a good provider with only a second grade education.”

“About 40 people attended and the service was beautiful and peaceful,” said Gloria. “I’m normally busy helping. I sat back by the pianist like I always do, but this time my family was there. It [the service] helped us to take it in and gave us some closure that this really did happen. It means our loved ones are not forgotten and we have to go on.” Gloria stilled a slight quaver that threatened to expose her sorrow and continued, “My oldest sister, who lives in Clear Lake came and she was so touched that we do this every six months. She told me she wants to come to the next one. I asked why since she wouldn’t know anyone and she said she would light another candle for mama.”

Houston Hospice is Houston’s only nonprofit hospice, providing care for patients and families throughout ten counties. To learn more about the local bereavement services offered by Houston Hospice, visit www.houstonhospice.org, or call 979-578-0314 or 800-420-6193.

-Karla Goolsby, Houston Hospice Communication Specialist

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Lessons from a Butterfly Family: Parenting a Dying Child


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National Hospice Month: Kathy Flinn and Tiffany Livanec

Kathy Flinn and Tiffany Livanec

Featured for National Hospice Month for the week of November 26 are Tiffany Livanec and Kathy Flinn. Tiffany is a Professional Relations Liaison and has been working at Houston Hospice El Campo office for five years. Kathy Flinn is the RN, PCM-IPU and has been working with Houston Hospice at the Texas Medical Center location for the past 14 years.

(Tiffany) What do you love most about working at Houston Hospice?
I love educating the community about hospice and knowing that many will have a much greater quality of life due to our efforts. 

 

(T) What draws you to your position?
My grandmother was on our services several years ago. The GIFT of hospice to our family is so dear to my heart that I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to work for such an amazing organization.

(T) What have you gained from working at Houston Hospice?
I have gained a greater appreciation for life, even less fear of death, and an increased faith!

(T) If you hadn’t become a Professional Relations Liaison, what might you have become?
If I weren’t called to be a liaison, I would like to be a chaplain.

(Kathy) What has been a pleasant discovery for you in the hospice community? 
Meeting the dedicated people who do this work because they perceive it as a”calling”… not just a job.

(K) What impact has hospice had on your life?
It reminds me that this life is temporary. It’s the next life that is really important.

(K) If you hadn’t become a nurse, what might you have done?
A travel journalist.

(K) Who was the person who most influenced you, and how?
Jane Sidwell.  She was PCM of the Inpatient Unit in 1996 when I oriented to my role as on-call nurse. I spent a 3-week rotation in the PCC (Patient Care Center) as it was called back then. Jane is the epitome of what I perceive to be an effective manager.

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National Hospice Month: Robynette Hall & Elizabeth Erwin

Robynette Hall & Elizabeth Erwin

 

Elizabeth Erwin & Robynette Hall share their hospice experiences for National Hospice Month. Robynette Hall has worked with Houston Hospice for the past five years as an RN for the On-call Team and works throughout the city.  Elizabeth Erwin, Senior Accountant has worked at Houston Hospice in the Texas Medical Center for the past 15 years.

 

 

(Elizabeth) What has been a pleasant discovery for you in the hospice community?
There are some who don’t know what hospice is all about and then there are others who look at me with admiration when they hear I work at Hospice.

(E) What draws you to your position?
I love Accounting!

(E) What have you gained from working at Houston Hospice?
Respect for what the nurses and doctors do on a daily basis. And let’s not forget the Finance staff who book and report the results of their work!

(E) If you hadn’t become a Senior Accountant, what might you have done?
Forest Ranger – I love nature – the backyard outside my window helps with the forestry side of my accounting!

(Robynette) What do you love most about working at Houston Hospice? 
I love the Team work and how much everyone truly cares for the patients and their families.  I also like how many Disciplines are involved taking care of our patients and their families.  It takes an army to care for them.

(R) What has been a pleasant discovery for you in the hospice community? 
This is where I belong, working Hospice and how rewarding it is to be able to help the patients and their families.  I feel truly blessed.

(R) What impact has hospice had on your life?  
The company is terrific and growing, the Team work has been the best I have ever witnessed and I feel everyone really cares about each other.  Knowing how much impact you have on the patients and families is a great reward unto itself.  As well as being able to work for one of the only nonprofit hospices in the Houston area.

(R) If you hadn’t become an RN, what might you have done? 
This is my third career and my second career move as a nurse.  I think I am hooked as a hospice nurse however.

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National Hospice Month: Sharon Hempler and Sonja Payne

Sharon Hempler and Sonja Payne

 Houston Hospice employees Sharon Hempler and Sonja Payne talk about their experiences at Houston Hospice for National Hospice Month. Sharon has been an RN-PCM on the Blue Team in the West Office for the past five years. Sonja Payne, Receptionist, at the Texas Medical Center location has been working with Houston Hospice for 20 years.

(Sharon) What has been a pleasant discovery for you in the hospice community?
Inspite of the difficulty of our work, we support & uplift each other.

(Sh) What impact has hospice had on your life?
Not only was I able to assist patients and families, but Houston Hospice supported me through my husband’s death.

(Sh) If you hadn’t become an RN-PCM, what might you have done?
If I hadn’t become a PCM, I would still be out seeing patients and families.

(Sh) Who was the person who most influenced you, and how?
Cheryl Holbert was my PCM and set a high standard for me to follow. She is knowledgeable and was a good mentor and teacher. Ruth Landauer was a friend of a friend who recommended Houston Hospice to me. She is a calming influence and supportive of staff and our clients.

(Sonja) What has been a pleasant discovery for you in the hospice community?
What has been a pleasant discovery for me is the spiritual bindings that hold me to Houston Hospice.  No matter how I look at my position here, I can always find myself spiritually connected to the organization. 

(So) What impact has hospice had on your life?
The impact hospice has had on my life is tremendous.  I am grateful for all the years and experience that I have endured here.  I don’t take hospice or the people here for granted. I am aware of other people’s feelings and believe everyone here at Houston Hospice is on a journey. 

(So) What have you gained from working at Houston Hospice?
Compassion and patience are two things I did not necessarily exude before coming to work here.  I knew about compassion and I had heard about patience. However, had I not come to work here I would probably not have gained either.  It prepared me for the grief I suffered in losing my brother and helped me support my family during our losses. Many of my friends and family say that I have two lives; one before hospice and the one I have now, after hospice.

(So) Who was the person who most influenced you, and how?
The person who influenced me the most at Houston Hospice would be Ruth Landauer, Director of Volunteers.  I learned from Ruth’s warmth and dedication from the very beginning.  She embraced me very delicately and made me feel ‘right at home’ on my very first day at hospice.

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National Hospice Month Insight from Nora Heflin and Jodie Gonzalez

Nora Heflin and Jodie Gonzalez

 

For National Hospice Month, Houston Hospice employees shared insight into compassionate, end-of-life care. Featured for the week of November 5 are Jodie Gonzalez and Nora Heflin. Jodie is a social worker on the Blue Team, which is based out of the West Office and has been working with Houston Hospice for one year. Nora Heflin has been a Certified Patient Care Aide for the past four years and is working at the Texas Medical Center location.

 

(Jodie) What do you love most about working at Houston Hospice?
My co-workers! Everyone on my team gives 100% to every patient/family and truly believes in the work we do.

(J) What draws you to your position?
The ability to walk alongside families during the most difficult time in their lives.

(J) If you hadn’t become a social worker, what might you have done?
A champion flamenco dancer…of course!

(J) Who was the person who most influenced you, and how?
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross did amazing work with terminally ill patients and really opened the world’s eyes to the needs of dying patients and discussions of death/dying. As long as professionals understand that there are no “5 stages of grief,” her work is still inspirational to those of us trying to increase our culture’s comfort level with death.

(Nora) What has been a pleasant discovery for you in the hospice community?
I discovered that we all face pain in life; it’s what you do with it.

(N) What impact has hospice had on your life?
Hospice has had a great impact on my life, losing my sister to cancer in 2010. I trusted my loved one to the care of Houston Hospice.

(N) Who was the person who most influenced you, and how?
Dr. Trinh, She taught me even in the worst of times, there is always another way to look at the situation. Even under tremendous amount of stress she still can manage to find some good in every situation.

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Houston Hospice: National Hospice Month

National Hospice Month is upon us. Every Monday through the month of November Houston Hospice will be highlighting employee experiences and delving into the human aspect of hospice care. The 2012 National Hospice and Palliative Care theme is Comfort·Love·Respect – something we see daily at Houston Hospice. Hospice care happens because of skilled and compassionate hospice and palliative care professionals. These include physicians, nurses, social workers, hospice aides, chaplains and volunteers. Below is a glimpse of employee insight into compassion driven end-of-life hospice care.

What have you gained from working at Houston Hospice?

 “Knowing that we are truly helping patients, and their families at the most crucial part of their lives,” Robynette Hall, RN, On-call Team.

“What I have gained most at Houston Hospice is compassion and patience,” Sonja Payne, Receptionist.  

“Fulfillment in being a healing presence,” Kathy Flinn, RN, PCM-IPU.

 

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