Family members with a loved one on hospice will eventually have to deal with the grief that accompanies the end of such care. While hospice programs like Crossroads offer support services throughout a patient's’ battle with terminal illness, some of the most important support work does not come until that battle is over. After a patient’s life comes to an end, they leave behind loved ones who care about them and cherish their memory, who struggle with profound feelings of loss. At Crossroads, this is when some of the most critical services offered begin to take effect. This is when Jeanne Morrison offers her support.
To Work With Grief
At Crossroads Hospice in Philadelphia, Jeanne Morrison’s vocation is to help families comprehend and deal with the sadness they feel after a loved one’s passing. As the site’s bereavement coordinator, she works closely with family members for 13 months after a patient’s death, helping them understand the grief they feel is normal and that with time, it will subside. She visits them in their homes and leads grief recovery groups hosted by Crossroads. She also offers support to her fellow staff members, who may get as close to a dying patient as if they were family.
“The nurses, social workers, and chaplains often ask me how people are doing, family members that they spent time with, because the passing of a patient takes a toll on them as well,” Morrison says. “I am privileged to work with families in their time of grief and also have the privilege of supporting my co-workers.”
Whether it be in her work with family members or the staff who have made connections with their patients, Morrison knows the best she can hope for is that they begin to understand their grief, not forget about it.
“There’s no fixing grief. Any success comes more in achieving clarity — acknowledging grief is something normal to be experiencing. When somebody does overcome the initial, difficult part of their grief journey, that’s a success in itself.”
At a Crossroads
After completing an advanced placement Master’s degree in social work at Fordham University in New York, Morrison had two options for a school internship. She could work as a school social worker or she could accept an internship at a hospice organization.
“After my interviews, it was clear to me that my heart was in hospice,” she says. “It was an opportunity that I didn’t want to miss.”
After her internship, Morrison worked for five years as a hospice social worker. When her family moved to Pennsylvania, she knew she wanted to find another job in the industry and was interested in working closely with families who had lost loved ones. Becoming a bereavement coordinator with Crossroads Hospice was a natural fit.
“When I interviewed with Crossroads, I found that I really loved their approach to bereaved families,” she says. “I love their follow-up approach, I think it’s meticulous. I also love other things about the agency not connected to bereavement. The unique services make it very exciting to work here. The working relationship among the different disciplines is wonderful. There is a format to be followed and at the same time, there’s a certain amount of creative license that the agency encourages. I think that combination is really terrific.”
A Glimmer of Hope
Morrison recognizes she has one of the more delicate positions at Crossroads. The fact is, some of the family members she works with will never get over the loss of their loved one. With that in mind, she notes it isn’t her job to cure grief, only to lend support where she can.
“The hardest part of my job is knowing that I can’t fix those I work with,” she says. “There’s no dress rehearsal for grief, it’s not a time in life that people are practiced at. I have to acknowledge it’s not something for me to remedy, that it’s part of someone’s journey. At the same time, it’s an honor to be able to companion people in that journey.”
The responsibilities of a bereavement coordinator would be difficult at any hospice, but Morrison is thankful she undertakes the role at Crossroads.
“I often hear how grateful families are for the services that are unique to Crossroads,” she says. “With Evenmore Care, people remember very specifically which staff member supported them. The Gift of a Day is something that is so cherished by families. I often see our Veteran’s Recognition hats or certificates in homes. It’s those little extras that make Crossroads very appealing to me, and I continue to see just how invaluable those services are to families.”
Every day, Morrison’s clients face grief that can overwhelm and possibly overtake them. She cherishes the opportunity to give them a glimmer of hope, knowing this is often enough to see them through.
“I hear often that no matter how much preparation is done with someone’s decline and ultimate death, loved ones can’t believe the shock and the depth of their sadness. Just being present with them and bearing witness to their grief, that’s what I can do best to support them. They begin to see the light at the end of their tunnel and that is why I do it.”
Honoring Our Bereavement Coordinators
We’re proud to honor Jeanne as our Crossroads Hospice “Staff Spotlight” recipient of the month, and recognize our bereavement coordinators who work tirelessly to serve our patients and families each day, such as: Cheryl Williams in Memphis, Jo Clipson in Oklahoma City, Stella Ruiz in Lenexa, Sandra Karem in Atlanta, Rick Deno in Kansas City, and John Monnin in Cleveland.
If you need more information on hospice or our Grief Recovery Groups, please call us at 888-564-3405 or visit our website.
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