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Great Ideas...Bereavement
  • The Grieving Center http://www.grievingcenter.org
    A web based television channel devoted to assisting those who have lost loved ones. This amazing website was developed by the bereavement team at Continuum Hospice in Manhattan, NY

  • Time of Remembrance Video
    At our annual Time of Remembrance we show a video of photos sent in by family members who wish to honor/remember their loved one. Each photo is on the screen for a few seconds while quiet music plays in the background. Photos are sent to the hospice office and we take them to a company which makes the video. The photos are returned to the families at the ceremony. It is the most moving part of the ceremony. Mount Hood Hospice, Sandy, Oregon

  • Bereavement Group
    We give a Christmas stocking to each grieving person attending the holiday-time meeting. Families place a memory or gift for the deceased person in the stocking. Stocking is reused each Christmas to remember the deceased person. Items placed in the stocking include things like notes and pictures. Hospice of the Gorge, Hood River, Oregon

  • Celebrating Day of the Dead, All Souls/All Saints Day
    Can do this at the office, in support groups, and at home. Create an "altares" with traditional objects (e.g., glass of water, food, candles, things your loved one would like to see if they came back). Encourage participants to bring photos, objects of their loved ones to put on the table. Keep it colorful. Our local art gallery has an exhibit devoted to Day of the Dead each year. Two years ago we had an altar with a bowl of lavender paper hearts on it in a bowl with pencils available, encouraging people to write names of or messages to their loved one. After two weeks the whole altar was covered with paper hearts! Hospice of the Sacred Heart, Eugene, Oregon

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  • The Remembrance Walkway (Community Awareness Fundraiser)
    We are building a bereavement center and have invited to have the community participate by buying bricks in memory of a loved one. The response has been overwhelming. The bricks are engraved and placed in a park where people can come and remember and process their grief. The park is right next to the bereavement center. South Coast Hospice, Coos Bay, Oregon

  • Memory Ladder
    We have a memory ladder that goes on our wall. We place a heart with the patient's name, years of birth and death. The ideas is a ladder going to the sky to heaven. Central Oregon Hospice, Bend, Oregon

  • Memorial Cake
    At the last session of an educational support group for children, the children decorate a portion of a large sheet cake in memory of their person(s) who have died. Each child gets to take their decorated portion home. Materials needed: large iced sheet cake, decoration tubes, various sprinkles, etc. Tip: Cover entire area with paper, including area surrounding work table. Take a picture of the cake and send it home with each child. RMH Hospice, Harrisonburg, Virginia

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  • Bereavement Camp for Children Who Have Lost Loved Ones
    The camp is for children approximately age 5 years to 15 years old. This is a one-day camp with Hospice staff presenting ideas to children about loss. The parents or significant adult in their life is invited. The children also participate in art, etc. to express their feelings about their losses. Memorial services with things like balloon launches are performed. This is our first year to try this even but hope it will help the children and families in our community. Twin County Hospice, Galax, Virginia

  • Bereavement Interventions in the School System
    Our hospital system has a partnership with a local school system. When a traumatic death occurred (bus accident) to a first grader, our social workers met with the first grade class on two occasions offering a forum to express feelings through art work and story-telling. Bereavement staff met with children riding the bus when the accident occurred and provided outlets for them to share fears and concerns. Anonymous
  • Extended Bereavement Program
    Hospital system-wide access to grief information for families experiencing a death anywhere in the hospital system. Notification is to the hospice Grief Services Coordinator who initiates mailing of packets of grief information and informs people of the grief groups available through Hospice and the community. Most frequent users-- ER, critical/intensive care units, oncology and med-surg units. Anonymous

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  • Annual Memorial Service
    Memorial service to remember and honor our recent patients. Families, volunteers, and staff, as well as physicians are invited. Family members place a candle or flower (or whatever you choose to use) in honor of their deceased family members.   Hospice of Southwest Virginia, Wytheville, Virginia
  • Hospice Annual Memorial Service
    Annual anniversary memorial service for families who have lost a loved one. Brings families together and provide ways of following up with families and ways to keep in touch and they can also donate funds. Provides way of educating public to awareness of hospice special prayers, special flowers, maybe special trees planted. The Thomas Hospice, Richmond, Virginia

  • Sympathy Cards
    Sympathy cards are left in team room for home care staff and on hospital units so personal notes can be written to families. Helps with closure for staff. Cards are sent about a week after patient dies. Hospice of the Piedmont, Charlottesville, Virginia

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  • Memorial Service
    Within the last two years we've gone from an annual memorial service to every six months, to quarterly. The response from the families has been phenomenal, from less than 10 in attendance to one hundred at our last service. During the service the names of deceased patients are read aloud and staff and families are encouraged to share special memories. Invitations are mailed, long-stemmed roses are given to each attendee and a reception is held for a time of fellowship. BonSecours Hospice of Saint Mary's Hospital, Richmond, Virginia

  • Bereavement Room
    Set up a comfortable and quiet bereavement room with resource materials, both written and audiovisual. Hospice Choice, Norton, Virginia

  • Caregiver Bereavement Support
    Schedule caregiver support visit at same time that Hospice Home Health Aide is in home with patient. Take the male caregiver out on drive (maybe to hardware store) to allow bereavement support. Men bereave/grieve best while doing. This also allows brief respite. Carilion Hospice, New River Valley, Virginia

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  • Bereavement: Losing an Infant
    This is in process of development and has not been tested. As a hospital based hospice they plan to send a letter to mothers/parents who have lost a baby at birth or shortly after while in the hospital. The letter will offer bereavement follow-ups and hopefully will lead to a grief support group for these people. Hospice of Southwest Virginia, Wytheville, Virginia

  • Childrens' Bereavement Camp
    A Childrens' Bereavement Camp is held twice a year. Hospice staff as well as physicians volunteer for the event. The event is funded by Dress Down Day each Friday with all Hospice staff. You must pay $1 to dress- down and wear a badge that says "I paid $1 to dress this way for Camp Horizons." The badge creates public awareness of Camp Horizons and some local businesses have joined in and donated funds from their own Dress Down Day. This year the children created a patchwork quilt with remembrances. It will be displayed at the Norton Art Gallery along with the hospice photographic inquiry. Hospice of Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach, Florida

  • Funeral Planning Book
    A guide/workbook to help with funeral planning can be used in general. It is specific to the state of Arkansas (laws), which may already be on the home page. Washington Regional Hospice, Fayetteville, Arkansas

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  • Memorial Service
    Our first Memorial Service was in a small church in town. Family and friends of the deceased were invited. It started with an inspirational song service, as the names of the deceased were called, a family member or the primary nurse lit a candle and the church bell tolled at the moment the candle was lit. The service was very moving. The entire community heard each toll of the bell. King's Daughters Hospital Hospice, Madison, Indiana

  • Annual Hospice Memorial Service
    Each family brings a reminder to place on branches of the tree during service. Items can be anything that reminds the family of their loved one--whether a picture, lottery ticket, favorite recipe, etc. Family members then have an opportunity to talk about  the item they hung from the tree of life. Hospice of Central Connecticut, Plainville, Connecticut

  • The Business of Bereavement
    Workshop designed to assist managers, supervisors, and employees in developing strategies relating to death in the workplace focusing on what is appropriate and responsive behavior when death of an employee or employee's loved one has occurred. Topics addressed may include: how to relate death news, obstacles in the grief response and suggestions for how to respond and support the bereaved. VNA Hospice, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

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  • Camp TLC
    Camp T(ogether) L(ove) C(aring) is held each year in the Fall for children who are bereaved and for their family or significant person in their life. It is open to the public not only children whose families are in the program. A bus is available for transport to a Y camp. We have a kite-making session and fly them (Imagine a field of 50 people, many of whom have never flown a kite before). The kites have memories written or painted on with symbols. A scavenger hunt focuses on nature and there are lists of things to be collected, such as bark, acorns, and leaves, and these are later used in a memorial service. In this service, a boat is built from these collected items and lowered in a basket to a stream and let go as the name of the person who has died is called out. The choice to keep the boat, let it go, or make it, is optional. We plant a tree in a grove and allow children to put in handfuls of dirt and to water it. A time for poetry is allowed. We have a waterfall hike that is led by a camp counselor that is a little difficult and calls for each person to help another. The bonding between people of different racial, religious, and socioeconomic groups is intense and enlightening and demonstrates that grief is grief and pain is pain and loss is loss,  regardless. VNA Hospice of Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio

  • Weekend Overnight Childrens' Bereavement Camp
    On one weekend each year we have children from 7-18 years old spend an overnight talking with peers, counselors, etc. Open to all who have lost a loved one in the past year. We have hayrides, pets, music therapists, and campfires. Volunteers participate and we receive donations to support a scholarship program for attendance. Bay Medical Center Hospice, Panama City, Florida

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  • Garden of Hope
    A one-half day program for bereaved families. Family members come and plant annuals in our "garden of hope." Annuals reappear every year and new ones are planted. Hospice of Holland, Holland, Michigan

  • Lesbian, Gay, and Bi-Sexual Bereavement Group
    This is a six-week group for gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual persons who have lost a loved one. Losses include AIDS, parents, children, partners, friends. If possible, male/female leader for each group. Recruit through feminist sources, churches, and appropriate publications. The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, Fargo, Florida

  • Memory Box
    Create a "memory box" whereby staff members write down memories (preferably good ones!) of patients/families and place  them in this box. During staff support groups, "down times," memorial moments, etc., draw from the box and reflect on the memory. This serves as a great reminder of the difference we, as hospice workers, do make--as well as the opportunities that we have to participate in these great moments. Hospice of the Three Rivers, Beaumont, Texas

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  • Memory Board
    Large board covered with tie-dyed fabric, with a sunrise or sunset at the top, water/ocean at the bottom. White sailboats each contain name of person who died and date of death. Small basket nearby contains stickers, markers, notepads. Poem beside it uses analogy of boat going over the horizon, i.e., dying. Area /board serves to celebrate and honor, as well as notify staff of death. Central Vermont Home Health Agency Hospice, Barre, Vermont

  • Remembering the Patient
    We send a single red rose in a vase to the funeral home (or to the patient's home if there is no viewing) after our patient dies. We also add a little note from the staff. We also keep a calendar for remembering all our present patients' birthdays. When we visit our patient on his/her birthday we bring a little gift from the staff, such as flowers, balloons, or cake. Hospice Saint John, Hazelton, Pennsylvania

  • Families Growing Through Grief: A Family Grief Support Retreat
    Co-sponsored by three hospice programs which serve the greater Twin Cities of Mpls. & St. Paul, this unique weekend program was designed for young families which have experienced the death of one parent, four to eighteen months prior to the retreat date. The surviving parent and children, three years of age and older, are invited to attend. Large group, age level and family sessions focus on the theme of re-defining and re-creating "balance" for family members and the family unit itself in the healing process. Mental health professionals and peer counselors volunteer their time and talents as staff. Methodist Hospital Hospice, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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  • Family Memories
    Provide blank lined books or audio tapes (also loan tape recorder for families who don't have one) who want to record special memories for themselves to have after the patient's death. Any one can write or record any thing they feel is important- the patient, family member, friend, etc. It facilitates the beginning of the grieving process. Hospice of the Chesapeake, Millersville, Maryland

  • Bereavement Support
    We divide our bereavement family list into groups of 6-10 names. On this list we have the family name, patient name, date of death, relationship to patient and any pertinent information. Our volunteers then call each family one to three days before our grief support group. With this approach we have increased the number of people at our support groups, have monthly updates on all our bereaved families and decreased the work load of our over worked bereavement staff. Hospice of Ponca City, Oklahoma
  • Rose Delivery
    Our hospice delivers a rose to the family night at the funeral home. The funeral home places it by the sign-in-guest book so it's the first thing family and friends see. Instead of the standard card from the florist, I have a disabled homebound volunteer who does beautiful flower pressing and calligraphy make a keepsake card attached to the bud vase. We also have volunteers who deliver a rose to the family on the one year anniversary of the patient's death to mark closure at the bereavement follow-up. Rockbridge Area Hospice, Lexington, Virginia

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  • A Tree of Remembrance
    A funeral home in our area holds a "Holiday Help" seminar, working with a company. We encourage attendance with volunteer support. It's held each November before Thanksgiving. We send a letter to family members about the seminar. Our hospice has a tree in the office called "The Tree of Remembrance." A hospice volunteer artist makes ornaments (white lace) and she does mirror etching with the patient's name, birth and death dates. This is given to the family at our candlelight service. This also keeps the remembrances rotated. BroMenn Hospice, Normal, Illinois

  • Puppets and a Kids' Fair
    We began using puppets for a "kids' fair." We participated in our community. One of our nurses wrote a script dealing with a brother and sister whose grandfather had died. We used the puppets to act out the script. It had to do with memories. We also gave the kids a memento to write the person or object they had lost. The kids were responsive. We also used the puppets at senior citizen agencies and nursing homes. We adjust the script. Good reception. Our goal is to use the puppets in individual   homes with patients and families. South Wind Hospice, Pratt, Kansas

  • Attendance at ALL Funeral Services
    Attend all funeral-memorial services not just the ones that are convenient, M-F. Helps to make a clarification that no one family is more important than the other. Anonymous

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  • A Memorial Picnic
    Our recent memorial service was held outdoors, including a picnic. In additional to holding a formal ceremony, the picnic format promoted much informal visiting. During the ceremony, as bereaved were given an opportunity to share any symbol and/or story of their loved one, they also had access to a bowl of rose petals; they could take a handful of rose petals and release them into the lake. Those who were too shy/emotional/etc., to share a story, had the opportunity to release some rose petals, too. Hospice of Seattle, Seattle, Washington

  • Memory Box
    Our Bereavement Coordinator facilitates several different bereavement groups,  including a pediatric support group. The project for the pediatric group is to make and fill a MEMORY BOX. The box can be made of any shape or size or material and designed in any way. The purpose is to remember the loved one who has died. Many adults comfort children by distracting and diverting their emotions. We feel that it is critical to help children remember and the MEMORY BOX can be kept forever, the contents can be of whatever item the child feels is important and can be taken out and viewed any time. It is truly comforting and also gives the message to the child that he or she, as well, will not be forgotten. Hospice in Franklin County, Greenfield, Massachusetts

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  • A Bereavement Banner
    Have a banner in office; patients, family, or volunteers make a scene representing that patient's life ( like a garden, etc.). KSB Hospice, Dixon, Illinois

  • Pediatric Drop-In Program
    Our Bereavement Department and Expressive Therapist sponsor a Saturday Drop-In (9-12AM) grief-related support therapy session for pediatric (5-16years) clients and families from the community interested in participating. Hospice of Louisville

  • Photo Collage
    Having families send in pictures for a collage to be used at memorial service. E. Hartford VNA& Hospice, East Hartford, Connecticut

  • Bereavement Camp for Children
    We have a bereavement camp for children ages 8-15 years old. Parents come for a concurrent sessions. We have guest speakers regarding loss and do activities: games, crafts, drawing to help process grief.  Also do fun activities intermittently such as swimming, miniature golfing. The parents learn what the children are going through and how to help then when they return home. Hospice of North Iowa, Forest City, Iowa

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  • Annual Memorial Service
    Annual memorial service (November) at which an evergreen tree is donated. Families (and /or friends) of patients who have died during the previous year are invited to place the name of the patient on a heart-shaped card which is hung on the tree as   the patient's name is read out. The tree is planted at the end of the service, hearts are removed and buried under tree. Hospice of Metropolitan Erie, Erie, Pennsylvania

  • Bereavement Quilt Project
    A forum for bereaved family members to contribute to the Hospice Quilt by: --Making a 10 inch block at home OR --Coming in to the office with an idea that significantly represents their loved one and Hospice staff and volunteers will put it together OR --Attending work sessions where support in the art of quilting/ and bereavement counselor is present. Hospice of Ponca City, Ponca City, Oklahoma

  • Bereavement Group
    More sensitivity to gender issues in workplace and patient care. Will be starting men's bereavement groups. Mount Hood Hospice, Sandy, Oregon

  • Jointly Sponsored and Annual Community Memorial Service
    Jointly sponsored an annual community memorial service with another local church-supported hospital-based Hospice. The memorial service will take place in a downtown park that has a small lake. We will solicit names of people to memorialize from families and friends of both hospice programs. These names will be put on candles that will be placed around the lake. As part of the service the candles will be lit. (Candles will be in a bag which sand to hold it down and prevent fire). St. Mary's Hospice, Knoxville, Tennessee

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  • Potluck and Lunches
    We had a problem getting our older widowers to attend a bereavement support group. Yet we saw a need for this as we are from a rural hospice and the men tended to be isolated socially. To make it all less threatening, we cook lunch for them twice a month and invite them to have lunch with us at Hospice. They will come to that and we have had great success with them talking and reaching out once they get there. We even had a men's potluck where they each brought a dish and the recipe to share with the other men. They are now contacting others throughout the month. Hospice of N. Idaho, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

  • One White Rose to the Funeral Home
    Send one white rose in a bu vase to the funeral home. Got bids from florists in area plan to go with one that does considerable business with our hospital. Hospice of Highland Park Hospital, Highland Park, Illinois

  • Children's Bereavement Weekend
    One weekend each summer at Mt. Charleston (45 minute drive from Las Vegas state camping facility with log cabin bathroom and cooking facility). Children's Bereavement weekend, children (ages 5-18) who has suffered the loss of a close family member or friend attends the weekend. Many staff also go--volunteers, nurses. Usually a theme each year. Last summer a circus clown participated. Idea: you can be sad on the inside and happy on the outside. Art projects, groups, and hiking. Nathan Adelson Hospice, Las Vegas, Nevada

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  • Light up a Life
    Memorial service has added the tree lighting plus a fantasy of lights parade. The Friday evening following Thanksgiving Thursday, with two corporate sponsors, including Walmart donating "6000" lights for parade. Livinsgston Community McPherson Hospice, Howell, Michigan

  • Anniversary Dinners
    Offer anniversary dinners to Hospice families. Contact local restaurants who agreed to provide a "special" dinner for our families who were having an anniversary dinners also provided for patients who might not still be living at the time of their anniversary. The families, if able, can go to the restaurant or if unable, the volunteers will bring the meal and linens and silver and "cater" the meal to the family a. If they cater the meal they create a special atmosphere and allow the client and spouse to share a very special moment. Assured Home Health & Hospice, Chehalis, Washington

  • Video Histories
    Video Histories for Hospice families of their dying loved one. Two volunteers visit the home with a script and interview the patient. Questions include events of the past- childhood, teen years, etc. Video is then edited and given to families. At Patient Care Conferences someone on the team may suggest that the video would be appropriate for a family. The nurse, social worker, or volunteer suggests the service to the family. When the family approves the idea the Vol. Coord. contacts the two volunteers video specialists. This is a wonderful remembrance for families. Anonymous

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  • A White Flower
    Whenever a patient dies, we put a white rose on the patient and the family can keep the rose for memories. Hospice of Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach, Florida

  • Camp Braveheart
    A 2-day bereavement camp for children ages 4-18 is available to any child in the state of Rhode Island who has experienced a loss (not necessarily hospice).  Several children over age 18 who attended the camp before return as counselors.  Home and Hospice Care of RI, Providence, RI
  • The HUG (Healthy Understanding of Grief) Program
    Program includes anticipatory grief support while patient is on service. Children receive developmentally appropriate one-on-one support at school or in the office (not at home where so many things are going on during patient care). Support continues after the death.
    Hospice of Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz, CA

  • Camp Erin for Grieving Children and Adolescents
    Send children to spend a weekend at a camp in the Adirondacks.  One of the greatest benefits to campers is the realization that they are not alone—others have similar losses—and they report deep appreciation for the opportunity to talk about their loved one.  The Community Hospice, Albany, NY

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  • Planting A Tree Memorial
    Several bereaved people meet at a park memorial service where the ritual is planting a tree. This is especially meaningful in a park or neighborhood that has low funding or is in real need of trees.   Anonymous

  • Comfort Bear Project
    Hospice volunteers sew teddy bears from the clothes of the deceased loved one for his/her children. This helps the children maintain a tie with the deceased.  Hospice By the Bay, Larkspur, CA

  • Letting Grow
    Set up Saturday grief support groups for people with developmental disabilities. Teamed with the State Division of Developmental Disability to provide service for anyone who has a disability and is grieving.  Providence Hospice of Seattle, Seattle, WA

  • Expressing Grief
    Using art, music, and massage to discover and express the many faces of the grieving experience.  Northwestern Memorial Hospital Hospice and Palliative Care

  • Grieving for Children
    Show film of people sharing their grief experiences. Also have parents and siblings sit down and share their favorite memories of the deceased child. Hold a yearly memorial service and video presentation of the child's photos.  Rainbow Kids Palliative Care, Primary Children's Hospital, Salt Lake City, UT

  • Intern Training Program
    Offer a 13-month comprehensive training and practicum for master's level and graduate student interns.  The Center for Grief Care and Education, San Diego Hospice, San Diego, CA

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  • No One Dies Alone
    We interviewed and hired a manager for the bereavement program. The manager schedules volunteers to sit with our veterans so that all veterans have someone with them.
    No One Veteran Dies Alone, Anonymous

  • Getting Through the Holidays
    We have a ceremony (e.g., candle lighting) to thank someone who has passed for something special they did for us. An MSW and a chaplain facilitate as people  provide examples of things they have done to incorporate memories of their loved ones into their lives. Idaho, Anonymous.

  • Day of the Dead
    A Day of the Dead altar is set up in our large meeting room. Employees can visit it throughout the day, place flowers, light candles, put photos of loved ones who died. There is also a small table of refreshments fro mthe "culture" available throughout the day.  Hospice of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

  • Memory Bear Reunion
    We invite all of the bereaved who have received a memory bear from our volunteer program over the past 5 years to a reunion around Valentine's Day. We have a short memorial, entertainment and refreshments for all to enjoy. We have over 100 people in attendance each year. It is the most popular event we offer.   VITAS Hospice, San Diego, CA

  • Surviving Spouses
    Hold a monthly meeting for surviving spouses and children so that those who have been helped by the group can share with the newly bereaved. Hospice and Palliative Care, Wood River Valley, Ketchen, Idaho

  • I Have A Friend (IHAF)
    Mentor services for parenting after loss. Hold parent/guardian and children's group with a closed census and fixed duration.  Hospice of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

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  • Camp Courage in Muskegan, MI
    A grief camp for kids aged 6-12, integrating grief activities with camp experience. Hold a personalized awards ceremony with families and camp reunion 1 month after camp starts.
    Harbor Hospice.

  • Don't Flush the Goldfish
    Using books to help build a child's coping skills. When you might not know what to say or how to say it, the gift of a book can guide you. We give the book The Kissing Hand with a label inside saying "This is a gift to _____________from the Hospice." Adults get the book Tear Soup.  Midwest Care Alliance, Columbus, OH

  • An Evening of Reflection and Gratitude
    A program that is in the works scheduled for the week before Thanksgiving is intended to give attendees the opportunity to reflect on a tell stories about their loved one and express gratitude for what they gained in having that person in their life. We will give a small mirror to each attendee with the belief that what we learn from others is reflected in us. We will also be offering some tips of coping with the holidays.  Namaste Hospice, Denver, CO

  • In Good Company
    Provide coffee time, lunch, and dinner in a non-structure environment that allows survivors to get to know each other and build relationships as well as get  better acquainted with bereavement professionals and decide if they want or need more help.
    Hospice and Palliative Care, Charlotte Region.

  • Grief Acceptance Class
    An 8-week class, 3 hours a night, once a week. People learn about grief, share about their loved one and do exercises to share emotions and feelings.  Offered twice per year.
    Sandpoint, ID

  • Cherish the Children
    A remembrance service held on Mother's Day for parents whose child has died. Staff and  volunteers sing and read reflections. Coffee and pastries are served.  Grief Education Resources

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  • Garden Stepping Stone Memory Project
    Participants bring memory items for stones and set them in the garden. Brings children and loved ones together to create new memories of loving remembrance.  The joy of the loving continuing connection surfaces and embraces each participant. Even volunteers who help are deeply moved by the healing presence.  Flambeau Hospice, Phillips, WI

  • Mandalas for Healing
    Here's what we do:  Take a circle of white poster board or paper, some different types of magazines, and glue sticks. Choose images that represent the person's hopes, plans for the future—particularly the coming year. Tear them out and make a collage. Share it with each other and put it up in a place where it will be seen daily.  Hospice of the West, Phoenix, AZ

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    ©2011 Dale G. Larson, Ph.D.