Bereavement Committee - Help Please!!!

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    I am starting a bereavement committee in my PICU and I am wondering if there are any suggestions. We currently have bereavement information and binders for the families. We do clay molds and fingerprints, as well. We are going to start sending sympathy cards and having semi-formal debriefings every so often outside the hospial. But, that's it. I know there is so much we can add and do for our families and I want to do everything we can.

    The other question is...how to go about getting funding? I am sure our hospital is not going to support many of the things we want to do - at least right away - so how do I go about getting charities and other organizations involved? I am so new to all of this - but, I want to learn and I want to do more.

    Thanks so much!!!

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  2. 5 Comments...

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    Enlist the chaplaincy, social work, child life and pediatric palliative care programs at your hospital to help you. They know where the money is.

    Our hospital has a bereavement program and it's really great outside of the PICU. Our unit, it seems, is starved of supplies and support when it comes to doing things for the families. Last month I had a SIDS baby who we withdrew on halfway through my second shift with him. When I got out the bereavement bin there was nothing in it except an ink pad, one envelope with the paperwork in it and a broken porcelain heart. It's supposed to contain sleepers to dress infants in, a quilt or blanket to wrap them in (which is given to the family after the body is released to the funeral home), an ink pad, several envelopes with the paperwork in them and one porcelain heart for each package. (The porcelain hearts are in two parts, with a heart-within-a-heart; the inner piece stays with the child and the outer hollow part is given to the family.) We will do clay molds on weekdays (when Child Life is available, if we know the child is going to die), but the rest of the time we make do with hand and foot prints. Our unit is rather reluctant to include palliative care in anything we do because of the negative connotations so we're usually on our own.

    The palliative care team is the main driver of our bereavement program and we notify them when a child dies on our unit. They have a coordinator who brings us sympathy cards to sign for the families and sees that they are mailed out about 4 weeks after the death. They contact the families by phone; if the nurse who was with them when the child dies would like to make the contact they'll facilitate that. And twice a year we have a memorial service for staff and families to commemorate the children who have died in the preceding six months. The chaplaincy, palliative care and social work departments arrange the services in the hospital chapel and for refreshments for the reception that is held afterward. It's quite a lovely tradition. You could do that on a tight budget by approaching local businesses for donations of cookies, cake and beverages. Or you could get your coworkers to bring them.

    The quilts and blankets we have for our kids are all donated by service groups and crafts guilds (and one lovely former PICU nurse who fills her time now with quilting for the babies!). Go into a local craft supply store and ask about the people they see regularly. They'll help you figure out where to start inquiring. Dying children elicit a lot of tender feelings and most people are only too eager to help in some way.

    Your endeavor is a very worthy one and I wish you the best.
  4. 0
    I work in a paedatric hospice. Once a year we hold a "Remembering Day" for all the families of children that have passed away. Bereaved families are always invited to facility events - like the yearly Christmas party, too.
  5. 0
    A lot of what Jan mentioned is similar to what we did at my old hospital, except we actually didn't have as much stuff! I love the idea of soft jammies and blankies for the little ones. We always did hand and foot prints, and if it was a kid we were planning a withdrawl on, I would always ask the family if they wanted to be a part of that with me beforehand. That way they have the memory from when their kiddo was still alive. (One of the most poignant moments I remember was two little boys, 7 and 9, painting their 16 year old sister's hands to make prints before we extubated. They were so earnest and sweet, wanting to make sure it was perfect. "We're making this for mama because she's sad.")

    We also had the twice annual memorial service, where families could gather and we would have readings and stuff. There was always a project for the parents to do, something like painting stars with their child's name, and we would have a wall for parents to bring photos to post up a big collage. The nurses often end up doing readings and stuff in the service, which is pretty cool.

    Here on the ship where I work, we don't have anything in place because it doesn't hapen too often, and each time the family is totally different. The culture here isn't the same as in North America, so things like giving a mama a blanket to remember her baby don't end up working as a memento; it just gets sold to buy their next meal. But we do those things nonetheless - soft clothes and blankets, usually donated from people back at the home churches of other volunteers here.

    Just this week, actually, we had a pregnant crew member miscarry in her 12th week. They're European, so VERY far from home at an incredibly difficult time. So I pulled together all I could remember from things I'd read on old bereavement threads on here (yay allnurses!) and put together a little "treasure box" for the parents. I included a couple poems, one of which is one I spoke at our memorial service back home one year, that I had put on cute backgrounds in Photoshop and printed out. Thankfully, I was with her at her last ultrasound, so I had taken some photos of the screen (we can't print here) so I printed those out for them and included them. I marked a tape measure at the size of the babe (4cm!) and found a little stuffed animal. They didn't know the sex, but they felt she was a girl, and had named her. I made a little bracelet with her name and put it all together for them. They wanted to bury something to get some closure, so I printed out another ultrasound photo and made a second bracelet with her name and tied it with a little ribbon. I wanted to do more, but that's all I could scrounge up around the ship.
  6. 0
    What a wonderful person you are, Ali. I'm so glad we're friends... hopefully some of that will rub off on me!
  7. 0
    I was just now searching online for patterns to make crocheted bereavement gowns or wraps, that I intend to make for our children's hospital in my state and in my search, your posting came up.
    There are always women in every community who love to do things like this for charity and I'd bet you could find some to help in your area.
    Put an ad in the paper or go to your local shops that sell sewing, knitting and crocheting supplies....I bet they could get a group started to help you.

    If you do a search online for gowns for bereavement you can find sites that actually offer patterns for the little gowns, in sewing, crochet or knitting.
    Another idea, is if your hospital has a web site, you might could get them to do a page on your program, showing what you need and offering links to sites where the ladies who do the work can get patterns for free.
    But most women who sew, crochet or knit can come up with some great ideas.

    I can just almost guarantee you, if you get the word out there, there will be women come forward to help and their donations of gowns they have made will practically fund the project you have in mind, as the gowns and burial wraps would be a major portion of the program.

    I found a beautiful pattern for a crocheted burial wrap, that I want to make, and I was thinking of making a set...the wrap for the baby to actually be buried in and a coordinating blanket that the baby could be wrapped in for the mother to be with the child for awhile then she could keep the coordinating blanket for her memory box. It would take more time to make the set, but I bet it would be well received and appreciated by the mother. And if I'm willing to do this where I live...there are ladies where you live who will help you, also.
    All it would take is just getting the word out......Maybe you know someone in your family or friends mothers who do needlework....ask them if they could help you get a group started to make and donate the items needed.

    Bless you for wanting to do this for your community.

    If you get your program started, I will donate a bereavement set for you, like I have in mind to make. It might take me a couple of months to get one made, but I'd love to do it for you.
    PM me if you get it started.


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