Grief Awareness Week for Staff 2016 a success!

June 15, 2016  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

Thank you to everyone who participated in and or attended the recent UMHS 2016 Grief Awareness Week for staff, which featured daily events, helpful tips, the annual grief wall, unit-based activities and more. The weeklong event, hosted by the Grief Awareness Week Committee, was a great success touching more than 1,000 staff members. The committee was comprised of multiple disciplines (nursing and medicine, social work, spiritual care, security, unit hosts, child life among others), and chaired by Lisbeth Harcourt, LMSW-Program Manager Office of Decedent Affairs (ODA) and, Meghan Thiel, LMSW-Adult Palliative Care social worker. 

If you attended one or more of this year’s events, be sure to provide feedback in a short Grief Week Survey.

What is Grief Awareness Week?

The purpose of Grief Awareness Week is to increase awareness and acknowledge staff losses across the health system. The awareness events held at UMHS this year focused on grief related to patient loss, staff loss, and personal loss. Events were open to all staff and provided an opportunity for them to take a break from their work to laugh, reflect, gain insight, and learn helpful coping strategies. 

Several 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.  Hospital workers also frequently witness other kinds of losses, such as loss of function or loss of independence.  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.

In case you missed it …

During the week of May 16-20, all UMHS faculty and staff were given an opportunity to acknowledge staff losses, both personal and professional, throughout the Health System. To kick things off, UMHS Service Excellence graciously made “Understanding Grief” the topic for their Go Blue daily huddle. This information was sent out to 820 managers across the health system and was discussed in small work groups on a daily basis throughout Grief Awareness Week.

Windows on the main hall of 2nd floor UH (courtside), Cardio Vascular Center, and C & W Mott were used for the Grief Wall. Using paint markers on the windows, employees shared thoughts, messages, poems and coping strategies related to their personal loss and grief stories. This interactive display helped employee’s express grief and coping.   In addition, many units and office areas participated in the “Before I Die I want to….” project.  This project was inspired by artist Candy Chang who in her Ted Talk reflects about the way that experiencing loss can influence us, and of the way that “thinking about death clarifies life.” 

Events throughout the week also helped employees learn about, channel or express their grief.  Highlights included a Schwartz Rounds about “Cultural Expression of Grief”, a lecture entitled “The Gift of Conscious Grief” which taught approaches to develop a personalized framework for experiencing, honoring, and processing loss in the workplace, presentation on the topic of “Laughing in the Face of Death: Movies, Medicine, and Mortality,” a chance to view past Grief Week for Staff lectures, and a presentation by UMHS patient families called “Grief and Gratitude.”

In addition to daily activities, many unit-based activities were offered.  Black ribbon stickers were given away at all the events, encouraging staff to proudly acknowledge this difficult work that we do. 

What did you think of Grief Week?

If you attended one of the Grief Week events, the Grief Awareness Week Committee wants to hear from you!  Please provide your feedback in this short Grief Week Survey so they can make this event even better next year.

Didn’t make it to this year’s events?  The committee still wants to hear from you!  Let them know what types of events would help you and your team members better cope with grief, and what barriers you found that prevented you from participating. Your feedback will help them plan for future years.


Many events were taped and can be viewed by going to the Office of Decedent Affairs website In addition to the events you will also find a complete wrap up of the week’s events and resources to help support your work.

For more information about Candy Chang and the “Before I Die” movement visit: and