August 30 is National Grief Awareness Day. Grief is a complicated emotion that can be further complicated by a global pandemic. Today we spoke with Margie Martin, Manager of Grief Support Services at Arbor Hospice. Margie discusses the mission of Arbor Hospice, how services have changed due to COVID-19, and her tips for people who may be grieving a loved one.
Ahead of the Curve: If you had to give an “elevator speech” about what your organization does, how would you describe it?
Margie Martin: Arbor Hospice provides caring, compassionate, end-of-life care. We have a holistic approach to helping people cope with dying. Our organization of care is a team approach. Each care team consists of a Doctor, Nurse, Hospice Aid, Social Work, Spiritual Care Coordinator, Volunteers and Complementary Therapies (Music, Massage and Pet) and Grief Support. Grief Support Services’ primary role is to provide follow up care to Arbor Hospice bereaved through calls, visits, support groups and educational seminars.
AOTC: Walk me through the step-by-step process. What happens when you get a phone call/referral?
MM: Arbor Hospice Grief Support Services is a continuation of services. The referrals come from our team members who most often suggest Grief Support follow up for the patient’s caregiver. We also receive inquiries from the community. These inquiries/referrals often come through partnerships with community organizations like the religious community, mental health professionals in hospitals or clinics, funeral homes, etc. All of our Grief Support programs are open to the community, free of charge.
AOTC: What organizations do you work closely with?
MM: Arbor Hospice Grief Support Services works closely with GrieveWell an organization that offers volunteer peer support to people who are coping with loss. We also work with Ele’s Place which offers support programs for grieving children and teens.
AOTC: How has Covid affected the ways people grieve?
MM: During the pandemic Grief Support Services switched to offering programs virtually via Zoom. For some, it was an adjustment to adapt to the new technology. However, people became open and receptive to finding ways to connect with others and to find comfort in the virtual company of others. Through the partnership with our sister organization, Hospice of Michigan, who provides care to other communities throughout the state, the switch to virtual meant that logistics wasn’t as much of a barrier. Loved ones across the state of Michigan had more opportunities to participate in groups.
AOTC: What are some things you wish the public knew about your role?
MM: I wish the public knew that serving others brings a sense of meaningful purpose. One of the joys of my job is to listen to the retelling of stories and recalling of memories. Many of the stories I hear are true love stories, some are full of adventure, some deeply touching and endearing and others can make you laugh out loud. Bearing witness and validating these stories affirms that their loved one was valued and had a life well lived.
AOTC: What tips do you have for someone with a loved one that’s going through this issue OR needs assistance?
MM: I would firstly encourage good self-care. It is very important to take gentle care of one’s self during a period of grieving. Everyone approaches their healing differently. Some prefer a more private individual one-on-one approach. Some like to learn as much as they can through reading and attending educational seminars. Then there a some who find it helpful to seek support from others who are coping with similar concerns in their grief; they avail themselves of support groups.
AOTC: Is there anything you would like to add?
MM: We also have tools on our website that do not involve contact though a phone call or groups. There are “Notes of Hope” which offers weekly email affirmation quotes. We have a Spotify digital Music link with a collection of songs that relate to grief and loss. We also have “Grief is Love Lost” an audio series with short clips addressing a variety of topics related to death, dying and bereavement. Whatever an individual’s approach to healing might be, we continue to provide support in a variety of ways.
Thank you to Margie for sharing information about this important community resource! To learn more about Arbor Hospice, visit their website or call 1-888-992-2273