In 1988, a group of nurses at LLUMC felt the need for bereavement follow-up for families who experienced a perinatal or neonatal death. A committee was established and, in conjunction with Gunderson Lutheran Hospital in Wisconsin, a Resolve Through Sharing program began. This program continued for a number of years. In 2012, the perinatal and neonatal grief program was renamed Always in my Heart (AiMH).
Shortly after the RTS program began, nurses in the pediatric areas expressed a need for a similar program. There was no known national program dealing with pediatric death, so the HOPES (Healing of Parents Experiencing Sorrow) program was developed and started providing follow-up to families in 1991.
The next areas assessed were medical/surgical and ICU units. Since the families of patients in these areas needed support as well, the CARE (Comfort and Recovery Experiences) program was launched in 1992.
The final program is SEASONS (Sensitive Emergency Approach to Significant Others’ Needs in Sorrow). This was particularly geared to sudden and traumatic death and based in the emergency department and has been operational since 1995.
The four programs work together closely and are guided by the Grief Coordinator Committee. This group is chaired by the director of the Employee Spiritual Care & Wholeness department. The Grief Coordinator Committee is made up of 7 program coordinators from AiMH, HOPES, CARE and SEASONS, a member of the Palliative Care team and a nursing educator from Staff Development. The coordinators are paid for 6 hours each month to complete their duties. Their responsibilities include placing phone calls to bereaved families, stocking supplies, preparing educational materials for their areas of responsibility, monitoring follow-up and attending the Grief Coordinator Committee meetings.
Follow-up for families consists of the following:
- Sympathy card 2-3 days following death
- Letter at ~one month
- Phone call at ~2-3 months
- Holiday letter and CareNote in November
- One year anniversary card (for HOPES and AiMH programs)