Grief Support Program
The hospice bereavement department provides a variety of comprehensive supports to help you through the first 12 to 18 months of grief and beyond. All of the services we offer are available to friends and family of our current and former hospice patients, as well as members of the community, free of charge.
Below are FAQs to help you understand more about our grief support services:
- Regular bereavement mailings - Mailings continue through the first year of grief and may include a grief resource pack, quarterly mailings (to let you know what to expect around three, six and nine months after the death), a bi-monthly newsletter, and additional printed grief literature upon request.
- Check-in phone calls - At minimum, one call will be made within the first few months of grief. Ongoing check-in calls can be made upon request.
- Home visits - We provide support from the hospice bereavement coordinator and/or a bereavement volunteer in your home, in the community, and by telephone.
- Support Groups - Access a list of support groups in the Twin Cities or call the bereavement coordinator at 763-531-2424.
- Community Referrals - We provide referrals to local grief counselors, support groups, and other community resources.
Often in the process of grieving, people may wonder if what they are experiencing is normal. Although grieving often involves a wide range of emotions, and the paths people take on their grief journey may vary, there are some common emotions that many people experience along the way. For instance, most people who are grieving will normally go through a period of numbness in the beginning. It may seem as if you are simply "going through the motions" of life, but feeling little. This is part of healthy grieving, because it is your body and mind’s way of protecting you from the first, intense shock of loss.
As you move out of this period of numbness and begin to feel, it is common to have a mix of strong emotions, including anger, fear, guilt, or even relief. You may feel anxious, confused, and lonely, and notice that your ability to concentrate is poor. Grief can even manifest itself in physical symptoms, such as loss of appetite, lack of motivation or energy, physical pain or illness, or trouble sleeping. Although these are all part of normal grieving, it is important to seek support from family, friends, a support group, a faith community, and/or professional counselor, so that you can move forward with the most important task of grieving, which is not to forget the person you have lost, but to begin to build a new reality in the presence of that profound loss.
As you are on this journey of grief, remember that it is just that, a journey. Whether you are experiencing normal or complicated grief, it is important to know that grief doesn’t ever truly go away. Although there is no specific timeline, you can expect that your feelings of grief will lessen over time, and you will gradually return to your normal routines of daily life. However, most people who are grieving experience good days and bad days, with periods of healing and growth followed by temporary setbacks. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and other special days often bring about renewed feelings of grief. If you are able to anticipate these times, you may be able to prepare yourself, but sometimes these feelings will just catch you by surprise. It may help to know that these renewed feelings of grief are rarely as intense or longlasting as the initial grief you felt, and with support these feelings, too, will begin to soften.
If you feel that you are not able to move forward in your grief, or have intense feelings of grief for a prolonged period of time, seek professional help to rule out complicated grief or depression. Most importantly, if you have any thoughts of harming yourself, seek help immediately. If you are not sure where to turn for help or support, contact us at 763-531-2424 and we will be happy to talk with you over the phone or in person, or connect you with support resources in your community.
Some of the most frequent questions we encounter in working with hospice families involve how children grieve, and how the adults in their lives can best explain difficult concepts and provide support. Children of all ages do recognize and respond to the death of a loved one, but their expressions of grief can vary widely based upon their developmental stage. Below is some information on how children of various ages may respond to a death, along with tips on how to process a significant loss with a child, as paraphrased from teaching sheets compiled by the Hospice & Palliative Nurses Association.
Infants and toddlers (birth – age 2) may not understand death, but may react to the emotions of adults around them. Their responses may be primarily behavioral in nature and they may cry more than usual, have temper tantrums, or be unusually clingy.
Maintain structure and routine, provide and maintain physical closeness, and give extra reassurance that the child is loved and will be cared for.
Preschool children (ages 3–5) may have some understanding about death, but may think it is reversible. As a result they may wonder when a loved one will return and may need the facts repeated. They may not understand the universality of death and may ask questions about whether other people or pets die. Children this age may have “magical thinking” and believe that their thoughts or actions caused the death. Symptoms of grief and mourning may include: anxiety, changes in behavior – such as becoming clingy or demanding, or acting out – difficulty sleeping, withdrawal, problems at school, or physical complaints.
Provide reassurance that the death was not their fault, as well as assurances that they are loved and will be cared for. Allow the child to play and have fun, while being present and attentive to their needs. Children this age may appear to go “in and out” of grief, so it is best to meet them where they are in the moment. It may be helpful to use books written specifically for children to help them talk about the loss, as they may learn through identifying with a character in the book.
School-age children (ages 6–9) may show symptoms of grief and mourning including: anxiety, changes in behavior—such as becoming clingy or demanding, or acting out—difficulty sleeping, withdrawal, problems at school, physical complaints, &/or denial that the death has happened/ fear that other loved ones will die.
In addition to suggestions made for younger children, rituals are important to children this age and may help to make the situation seem more real. Allow the child to participate in a funeral or memorial service if they desire.
Preteens and teens (ages 10 and up) may have begun to understand that death is final, but remains a mystery. They may want to talk about death and other abstract topics, and may begin to question the family faith and other beliefs. Symptoms of grief and mourning may include: anger, guilt, withdrawal or attempts to hide their feelings, aggressive behavior, resistance to help and attempt to take care of others, and/or difficulty concentrating.
Allow the child to participate in any family rituals, such as funerals, memorials, or wakes. Allow them to speak to someone other than their parents if they wish—such as a trusted teacher, pastor, or coach—or access the resources of a professional counselor or support group. It may be helpful to share books written specifically for children this age to help them become aware of and talk about their feelings; they may learn through identifying with a character in the book and how that character handled the loss.
Be honest about the death and use straightforward language. Using terms such as passed away, went away, went to sleep, etc. may inspire misunderstanding, confusion, and even fear in a child. If the child has questions about cremation, burial, or the funeral, answer them as simply and honestly as possible with attention to their age and developmental stage. A good guideline is to only answer questions they ask and not to overload them with information. If you need to, ask more questions of them to determine what they really want to know/ what their true concern is.
Allow children in your life to see you express your grief. If they do not see you expressing your emotions, they may not feel comfortable opening up to you.
Provide time and space for grieving, as well as a multitude of ways to express grief. Children, especially the very young, may not have the verbal skills or language to express their grief through words. Provide opportunities to express through non-verbal means, such as music, dance, movement, art, and play.
There are many organizations and camps in the state of Minnesota that specialize in helping grieving children of all ages. If you would like more information on these organizations, call and speak to the hospice bereavement coordinator.
We highly recommend these resources to help you on your grief journey:
Caring Connections Newsletter
Caring Connections is the newsletter we send out every other month which contains helpful information on grief, community events related to grief, and support group information. Feel free to download and read the most current issues or contact the bereavement coordinator to be added to our mailing list.