Recognize Grief Awareness Week with events, presentations, films and more

May 16, 2016  //  FOUND IN: News,

The U-M Health System’s annual Grief Awareness Week kicks off today. The purpose of this week is to increase awareness and acknowledge staff losses across the health system.  This year’s focus is on grief related to patient, staff, and personal losses. Several events will be offered throughout the week at different times of the day and evening to renew the “head, heart and spirit.”

Many health systems across the county designate a week out of the year to recognize the impact grief has on health care providers. More than 1,000 deaths a year occur within the hospital setting while hundreds more die at home under the care of ambulatory staff and home care workers.  There is often no time for staff to mourn their losses or acknowledge the emotional impact.  Unrecognized effects of cumulative grief can lead to burn out and stress.  This type of professional burnout may result in increased absenteeism, loss of productivity, staff turnover, and low morale.

Social workers, Sue Sefansky (Office of Decedent Affairs) and Lisbeth Harcourt (Lung Transplant Program and Transplant Cumulative Grief Committee Chair) identified an unmet need for staff to unite and have a formal way to reflect upon deaths while also celebrating the work they do.  It is apparent that healthcare providers working in an environment of suffering and multiple losses have a need for grief support and education. Currently, the Employee Assistance Program, unit based social workers, and spiritual care provides exceptional support to staff related to the difficulties of caring for dying patients.  The Annual Grief Awareness week provides encouragement and support to continue the challenging, high-quality work that needs to be done.

Grief Awareness Week 2016 is being co- chaired by Social workers Lisbeth Harcourt, Program Manager Office of Decedent Affairs, and Meghan Theil, Adult Palliative Care.  They are thrilled to present the 3rd annual schedule of events. They remain committed to recognizing a need for grief support and education among our health care workers who are often in an environment of loss and suffering. They chair a multidisciplinary committee that includes Transport Services, Environmental Services, Security, Nursing, M.D.’s, Child Life, UMHS Employee Assistance Program, Spiritual Care, Gifts of Art, Social Work, Care Management, Patient and Family Centered Care, Public Information Office, and Interpreter Services, among many others. Please direct questions about the week to either Lisbeth or Meghan.

This year’s Grief Awareness Week is sponsored and supported by the Frankel Cardiovascular Center, Department of Social Work, Department of Pathology, The Transplant Center, Mhealthy/EAP, Patient Family Centered Care, Nursing Professional Development and Education, Gifts of Art, Spiritual Care, and University of Michigan Museum of Art.  Click here to see the full schedule of events.

For more information about past Grief Awareness Week activities and resources about grief and loss, go to