This story is from the Summer 2014 issue of our In Touch magazine. For more, please click here.
"We grieve deeply because we love deeply," said Haven Hospice Chaplain Donna Carlile who serves the Suwannee Valley area. "Remembering those we love allows for that memory and love to never end. And it is through love that we heal."
After the loss of a loved one, coping with daily living can be hard. Knowing you are not alone in your difficult journey can make all of the difference. Through generous donations from community members, Haven Hospice is able to offer Healing Hearts — grief support programs in 18 counties of North Florida as a free, community service. These programs are nondenominational and Haven did not have to take care of your loved one to participate. Haven Hospice offers individual, family and group bereavement counseling with clinical, licensed social workers. Opportunities to heal and remember your loved one with others in your community include Love and Remembrance Memorials in the spring and the fall as well as Camp Safe Haven from May to October. Haven volunteers also create keepsakes for patients and families such as memory quilts as well as hand photography through the Haven Legacy Project.
In 2014, Haven Hospice is offering several Camp Safe Haven dates and locations to help children, teens and families understand their feelings of loss and to give them an opportunity to heal. "As adults, we can tell children and teens all we want about grief, but experiencing a loss is alienating. At Camp Safe Haven, children and teens can meet others who are experiencing the same journey and this helps validate their feelings and what they have been going through," said Haven Hospice Bereavement Counselor Marissa McGehe, MSW. "Camp Safe Haven provides a fun environment where we can teach and equip them with coping skills that they can use long after the camps are over. We also work with adults and give them information about what they can expect in their child’s grief journey."
Diane Pickering and her daughter will be attending one of the camps this year after losing her husband, Michael. "My daughter wants to talk with other kids who are going through a similar experience and I know that is going to be good for her," said Diane who is working through her grief process with Haven Hospice Bereavement Counselor Vonceil Levine. "Vonceil calls just to talk to me and even made me laugh today. She is wonderful. "
Haven Hospice Volunteer Patricia Ramsey from Orange Park will be making a quilt from Michael’s shirts, an intimate keepsake that Diane is looking forward to having. "I am always looking for things to do so that I can help folks," said Patricia who has been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). "I just participated in the walk to defeat ALS and I got such a sense of accomplishment from that walk. Volunteering to make memory quilts and other keepsakes for Haven Hospice patients and families is a great ministry for me."
Through the Haven Legacy Project, volunteer photographers take hand portraits of patients, families and friends. These keepsakes are offered at no cost to the family. The first initial roll-out of the program is currently happening in Gainesville and will soon reach other offices in the Haven Hospice service areas. If you or someone you know is an experienced photographer and interested in this unique, volunteering opportunity with the Haven Legacy Project in any of our 18-county service areas, please contact Haven Hospice Manager of Volunteer Services Susie Finfrock at 1-800-727-1889.
Each spring and fall, Haven Hospice offices in each service area host Love and Remembrance Memorials to help families remember their loved ones. All of the memorial services incorporate music, meditation and story sharing, but just as every individual experiences grief differently, each office has their own unique way of remembering those that they served. The fall memorials are organized by social workers on staff while the spring memorials are organized by each area’s chaplain.
"When we remember with others, such as a group memorial service, we begin to normalize the hard parts of grief," said Haven Hospice Manager of Spiritual Care Ina Boyd. "So that we do not feel as alone and out of control and that helps in healing."
During the spring memorial service at the Haven Hospice Suwannee Valley Care Center, "it is a tradition to release butterflies in remembrance," said Carlile. "At the spring memorial this year, a choir from the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Fort White helped lift everyone’s voice in song."
David Tucker is the Haven Hospice chaplain for Putnam, Flagler and Volusia Counties. Attendees at the DeLand memorial services write about their grief on special paper which is then dissolved in water. "This is symbolic of their hope and moving through the grieving process," said Tucker.
Chaplain William Baldwin retired from Haven Hospice at the end of May after having served patients and families in the Jacksonville area since 2002. "Many of the memorial services in Jacksonville and Orange Park involve reading the loved ones’ names and lighting a candle in their memory," said Baldwin who recalled one service that was a little different. "At the beginning of this service, an empty wreath hung at the front of the room."
Baldwin explained during this service the names of the loved ones were called and family members were able to place a flower on the wreath. By the end of the service, the once empty wreath was filled with beautiful flowers.
Chaplain Loyal Frisbie-Knudsen emphasizes the importance of remembering. "When we choose to remember our loved ones and how much we love and miss them, the broken pieces of ourselves are put back together," said Frisbie-Knudsen who works with patients and families in the Gainesville area. "That is why remembering is so meaningful and that is why we encourage remembrance at Haven. We want people to feel whole again, to know how special they are and to know how loved they are."
During their weekly meetings, Haven Hospice staff in each office take a moment to remember the patients they have served and cared for. At the Roberts Care Center in Palatka, staff and family members remember loved ones with memory stones. "At each weekly IDG (Interdisciplinary Group) meeting, the staff who cared for the patient will each take turns holding the stone, sharing their memories about the patient and saying a blessing or prayer," said Tucker. "The family then receives the stone that each staff member touched just as they touched the lives of their loved one."
In Jacksonville and Orange Park, a staff member reads the names of those patients who have passed during the week and then the team observes a moment of silence. "Because many of the staff become close with the patient, this is a time of grieving and remembrance," said Baldwin. "We take the time to thank the staff for what they have done."
Chaplain Tina Sweet who joined Haven Hospice a year ago and serves the patients and families in the St. Augustine area agrees that staff form a close bond with patients. "The love, care and compassion that I see in the Haven Hospice staff proves that they truly care about these patients," said Chaplain Sweet. "This is not just a job for them."
Tri-Counties Chaplain Janice Kirk believes whether it’s lighting a candle and reading a poem, cooking their favorite meal or visiting their favorite restaurant, being able to celebrate a loved one’s life and channel those feelings will allow a person to manage their grief instead of having their grief manage them.
"I always tell people to plan ahead and think about how they can celebrate on the days that may be hard. Don’t restrict your grief to the cemetery," said Kirk who encourages everyone to take advantage of the free services provided by Haven Hospice to the communities it serves.