Wellness Wednesday: Honoring life and loss

April 7, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources,

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As an established Michigan Medicine tradition, Honoring Life and Loss: Grief Awareness for Faculty and Staff has been recognizing grief and loss in the workplace since 2013.

This year, however, brings a more poignant moment — our losses have been more pronounced and our need to grieve more immense amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Our collective grief has permeated most aspects of our lives.

With that in mind, this year’s grief awareness events will cover the breadth of loss that one experiences in a health care setting and in personal life.

“We recognize that it has been a tough year for just about all of us,” said Lisbeth Harcourt, program manager for the Office of Decedent Affairs. “With the impact of grief and loss, we encourage everyone to pause and reflect during this time. With all of the events being held virtually, there is a safe space for everyone.”

It’s healthy to acknowledge grief

While this year has brought many challenges, teams across Michigan Medicine have demonstrated teamwork and caring by being supportive of each other and practicing resilience.

Still, the emotional burden of the past year has been heavy on many shoulders — and while this article will not serve as a complete source of healing, its purpose is to share resources and tips that will help assist in the grieving process.

Here are a few initial tips:

  • Acknowledge your pain.
  • Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions.
  • Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you.
  • Seek out face-to-face support (even if it’s virtually via Zoom or FaceTime) from people who care about you.
  • Support yourself emotionally by physically taking care of yourself.

Events and activities designed to help

Below is a list of events and activities that will be taking place virtually at Michigan Medicine in the coming weeks. There is also a downloadable pdf version of the events list. If you have any questions, please contact SocWk-ODA@med.umich.edu.

For more information on these events and how to register, click here.

The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet. This sort of denial is no small matter. The way we deal with loss shapes our capacity to be present to life more than anything else. The way we protect ourselves from loss may be the way in which we distance ourselves from life. We burn out not because we don’t care but because we don’t grieve. We burn out because we’ve allowed our hearts to become so filled with loss that we have no room left to care.”  ~ Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

Grief awareness events

Click here to register for any event.

April 16: And When I Die: Navigating End-of-Life Wishes in a Healthcare Setting for Patients, Families, and Staff (National Healthcare Decisions Day) – 11 a.m. – noon (1.0 CEs offered for nursing and social work and CME)

Ethical principles, value-based decision-making, and how to navigate conflicts between patients’ autonomy and healthcare professionals’ obligations to beneficence and non-maleficence. In addition, content regarding state of Michigan Funeral Representative Law will be presented reinforced by case examples discussion and review of interventions to educate patients about the benefits of preparing these documents

May 3: Schwartz Rounds – Navigating Culture During Code Blue Crisis
Noon – 1 p.m. (1.0 CEs offered for nursing and social work)

Monthly forum for health care professionals to address the social and emotional aspects of health care. This month’s topic will be grief, loss and trauma-focused.

May 19: Discovering Compassion in Loss: Building Sustainability for All – 
1 p.m. – 5 p.m. (4.0 CEs offered for nursing and social work)

This half-day conference is a way to recognize professional grief, which is frequently experienced but often hidden, while also building knowledge and skills in grief and loss related to death and non-death loss.  By embracing healthy coping behaviors and a supportive work culture, we hope to decrease compassion fatigue, mitigate occupational stress and burnout, and increase the joy and fulfillment in this type of work. Our 2021 lineup includes the following presentations.

  • Delivering bad news: The Art of Compassionate Communication — Aimee Vantine & Lisbeth Harcourt
  • Coping and Self-Care: In the Midst of Life and Loss — Susan Burgess and Lisa Evans
  • Unit Based Interventions: Teams Taking Care of Each Other
    • Code Lavender: LaToya Freeman
    • Therapeutic Movement: Megan Sims
    • Unit Based Compassion Rounds: Josette Schembri

May 25: Culture as a Lens into Grief (An Office of Patient Experience & Interpreter Services collaboration) 
1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. (1.5 CEs offered for nursing and social work)

Participants will view a film of interviews with family members of Michigan Medicine Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and American Sign Language (ASL) deceased patients followed by a panel discussion of interpreters. They will describe ethical dilemmas within different cultures, how to navigate patient/family experience during end of life events and considerations of culturally conscious care. After completing the course, the attendees will be able to explore cultural differences related to end of life events and grief/loss situations, examine the basics of medical interpretation and discuss how to contact and interact with Michigan Medicine interpreters and LEP/ASL patients. The target audience is all faculty, staff and learners at Michigan Medicine.

A Space for Healing: Honoring our Experiences with COVID-19

Michigan Medicine faculty and staff are invited to participate in this session to acknowledge our experiences and connect with others who have endured losses over the past year, including the deaths of loved ones, loss of stability, job changes, and loss of connection. This session will include mindful moments and time to recognize our emotional landscape during the pandemic, as well as ways to cope with loss and build resilience.

Please register for one session from the dates below. Number of participants per session will be limited in order to encourage discussion and interaction. The Zoom link will be sent after registration from EventBrite. Please check your spam folder if you haven’t received it.

Wednesday, May 5 from 5 p.m. -6 p.m.
Thursday, May 13 from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Monday, May 17 from noon – 1 p.m.
Tuesday, May 25 from 3 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Click here to register for A Space for Healing

Virtual Grief and Healing Wall all month long

Honoring Life and Loss: A special project to encourage staff, faculty, patients, families and all caregivers to share expressions of grief, loss, healing and hope. 

Despite our distance, we all have universal experiences of loss and finding new ways to connect is important. Please share your thoughts, messages, and other expressions of grief and hope virtually.

Your messages will be collected and be displayed by Gift of Arts volunteers and staff on the second Floor windows throughout the health system during May. Click here to enter your message grief wall.

Hamsa Hands for Grief Awareness Month

The Hamsa Hand art kit, sponsored by Gifts of Art, is free for Michigan Medicine faculty, students and staff. The ancient hamsa symbol of an open right palm is considered a sign of protection and good fortune. Many faiths see it as a symbol of prosperity, peace and happiness. 

For your free Hamsa Hand art kit pick-up info, video, and artwork sharing instructions, visit this site.