A swing swaying on a playground, fishing in a stream or ice cream on a hot day have something in common. Parents often share these fun activities with their children. These same moments also serve as hard reminders for bereaved parents. July is National Bereaved Parents Awareness Month, and Concordia’s Good Samaritan Hospice made it a focal point around their office.
“No one ever thinks they’ll have to say goodbye to their child,” said Christina Reuschlein, bereavement coordinator for Good Samaritan Hospice. “That’s why this month is important. It’s a difficult loss, and we want to acknowledge it and let people know we’re here to support them.”
Through the end of the July, visitors can stop at Good Samaritan Hospice’s administrative office and pick up a ribbon. The yellow ribbon honors Bereaved Parents Awareness Month. Staff also created a “butterfly wall” near the lobby. Anyone interested may write a child’s name on a paper butterfly and place it on the wall. Those honored do not have to be youths. In tandem with this display, the agency is hosting a special prayer and remembrance service at 1 p.m. on Friday, July 28, via Zoom. During this special worship service, the children’s names from the “butterfly wall” will be read aloud.
Click the button below to submit the name of a child, a parent or a family name by the end of day Wednesday, July 26.
This month has inspired the Good Samaritan Hospice bereavement team, and they’re thinking about how they can better serve grieving parents. The bereavement team is actively gauging interest in a support group focused on parental grief. Support groups provide a more comfortable setting for the bereaved to share their thoughts and emotions with people who have experienced similar grief. The groups can positively impact mental health.
“Losing your child is probably one of the hardest things imaginable because it goes against the natural timeline we see in our world,” Christina said. “The bereaved may be struggling to find the courage to move forward. We partner with parents wherever they’re at on their grief journey. We provide a lot of listening and where need be some education about grief.”
While July draws more attention to bereaved parents, it’s important to remember that grief presents as a unique experience to each individual. The way a parent grieves over a lost child is different than that of a child over a lost parent.
To help children with the challenges in their grief journey, Good Samaritan Hospice also offers Youth Bereavement Care. The free program is open to any child and young adult (up to age 21) impacted by the death of a significant person in their lives. The program and events can be tailored to meet the needs of the bereaved children. Concordia-IRMC VNA offers a similar program through its Hopeful Hearts service.
“Hopeful Hearts is a safe place to share your thoughts, feelings, and memories,” said Laura McLain, Concordia-IRMC VNA Hopeful Hearts coordinator.
In both, participating families typically attend activities, in which children are often grouped by age. The activities help the children share their experiences, feelings and memories about their late loved ones. Meanwhile, the childrens’ families or guardians meet in their own group. They to discuss their experiences and support each other in helping their children cope.
The Hopeful Hearts service is modeled after the Highmark Caring Place program. Families meet on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month throughout the school calendar year. In addition to the activities, the Hopeful Hearts website also contains online resources such as brochures, booklets and reading lists.
“We are a peer support program where you can share with others who are going through similar grief journeys,” Laura said. “A therapy dog joins us each session to provide our families with some added comfort.”
Grief and death affect everyone, so sometimes Concordia deploys more broad approaches to reach as many people as possible. Good Samaritan Hospice, Concordia-IRMC VNA and Concordia Hospice of Washington conduct butterfly releases annually. These events help cover a spectrum of grieving people through a symbolic gestures.
“The butterfly has long been a symbol of hope for people around the world,” said Roxanne Sweany, bereavement coordinator for Concordia Hospice of Washington.
Hundreds attend the releases ever year, which feature some prayer, some unity and of course the butterflies. People often find a sense of peace and closure through the event. It’s as much an emotional expression as it is symbolic.
“The symbolism of the release speaks to the transcendence of those who are being remembered and celebrated while inviting positive attributes of healing, strength and joy to their loved one,” Roxanne said.
Concordia’s network includes four hospices, since the addition of Concordia Home Health and Hospice of Bethlen earlier this year. These dedicated teams continue to spend time and energy helping people through their grief journeys, whether that be through a bit of advice, a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. They partner with all through their journeys, be it parents, children, spouses, friends or others through the process. Click to learn more about Concordia’s Home and Community Services. You can also click here to learn about Concordia’s Inpatient Hospice Services.
Founded in 1881, Concordia Lutheran Ministries is a faith-based, CARF-accredited Aging Services Network and recipient of the inaugural Pennsylvania Department of Aging Excellence in Quality Care Award. As one of the largest nonprofit senior care providers in the country, the organization serves 50,000 people annually through in-home care and inpatient locations in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and Tampa, Florida.
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