I have been a hospice volunteer in bereavement for Wings of Hope Hospice for 16 years. This ‘job’ came about as a way for me to give back after I had been helped through a rough patch myself.
Open Door Grief Support Policy
I am very proud to be associated with Wings and am proudest of the open door policy we have with our grief support programs. All are welcome to participate in these services whether the death they are mourning occurred in our care or elsewhere or whether the death was recent or happened many years ago. Wings of Hope provides grief support groups, one on one visits, workshops and supportive phone calls.
We try, as best we can, to schedule our calls soon after death, then again at six months and a final call at twelve months.
Stories and Lessons
Depending on many factors, the conversations might involve reminiscing about how a person met his or her spouse or the relationship with a parent or a very close friendship that goes back decades.
I’ve heard some wonderful stories. Several have brought tears to my eyes. Other times I can be heard laughing loudly through my closed office door.
Listening to the stories has also taught me a few things:
- I didn’t realize that pets grieve too.
- Talking about death prior to the occurrence helps to alleviate regrets.
- Family quarrels delay mourning.
- Dreaming about the loved one is usually comforting.
- Redefining one’s self is not an easy process.
I remember talking to a woman who told me she considered it an honor to be with her mother-in-law during her final days. An honor? I didn’t understand that one for quite a while until I experienced if first hand. She was right.
Many of those I speak with are unable to express their feelings to others, are protective of family members or just have no one else who they think will understand.
I have related on several levels with my conversants. Because I’m a ‘local gal’ many of my contacts have been comforting. “I knew your grandmother.” “I went to school with your father.” And so on.
When I tell people about my volunteer work with Wings, I often hear “Oh my. I could never do that.” I always respond with “I get back more than I give.”
It’s true. I always feel better after hanging up the phone. I might have to dab at my eyes but there’s a sense of knowing that in some small way, I helped someone.
Note: If you would like information about becoming a hospice volunteer and supporting hospice patients or the bereaved, please contact our office and ask for the Volunteer Coordinator.
Photo credit: Craig Gardiner Photography