Providence Hospice programs help heal grieving hearts

  • Written by Brad Broberg
  • Published in Local
Participants at memorial bonfires organized by Providence Hospice of Seattle add messages of remembrance to small bundles of sticks and sprigs of rosemary (the herb of remembrance) before tossing the bundles into the fire. Photo: Courtesy Providence Hospice of Seattle Participants at memorial bonfires organized by Providence Hospice of Seattle add messages of remembrance to small bundles of sticks and sprigs of rosemary (the herb of remembrance) before tossing the bundles into the fire. Photo: Courtesy Providence Hospice of Seattle

SEATTLE – Grief can weigh heavily at the start of a new year, when lingering holiday memories often become sad reminders of loss.

Providence Hospice of Seattle provides many paths forward for those who have lost a loved one. Counseling, workshops, support groups and memorial events are among a continuum of free grief services and programs available to anyone in King and south Snohomish counties trying to heal from the death of someone close.

“The mission of the Sisters of Providence is to serve the poor and vulnerable in our communities,” said grief counselor Beverly Goldsmith. “Because of that mission, we not only help the families of our hospice patients, but anyone who needs grief support.”

One of those Providence has helped is Blayne Shamarin, who was 11 when he lost his grandmother to pancreatic cancer six years ago. Her birthday was Christmas Day, and in keeping with the Seattle family’s Russian heritage, New Year’s Day was the biggest holiday on the calendar.

“The holidays were especially difficult for us the first few years, and they still are,” Shamarin said. “We always have a toast to her on her birthday and always remember that New Year’s was her [favorite] celebration.”

Grief support from Providence Hospice was “essential during the grieving period for my family,” Shamarin said.

The family participated in group counseling sessions through the Safe Crossings program, designed specifically for children and teens. It teaches kids to cope with grief in a healthy way and provides parents and other adults with skills and resources to support them.

grief board gameBoard games like Doggone Grief make it easier for grieving children to answer questions about their feelings, because the questions are asked within the context of play. Photo: Courtesy Providence Hospice of Seattle

“Sometimes children don’t exactly know how to [tell] adults what kind of feelings they’re having,” said Goldsmith, who coordinates the program. So Safe Crossings counselors conduct assessments, provide guidance and lead activities that help the entire family talk about the loss or impending loss of a loved one, she said.

“We utilize a lot of therapeutic board games … that are specifically designed to give children the opportunity to reflect on questions they might have,” Goldsmith said. “Answering them within the context of a game is a lot less threatening.”

The most helpful thing about Safe Crossings was discovering “you’re not alone,” Shamarin said. “There are other kids out there going through the same thing.”

Attending Camp Erin was an important step in Shamarin’s journey. Supported by Providence Hospice, the Safe Crossings Foundation and the Moyer Foundation, the annual three-day camp near the city of Carnation emphasizes fun but also provides opportunities for healing and companionship.

“It teaches you it’s OK to have fun,” Shamarin said, adding: “It taught me how to move on without leaving my grandmother behind.”

Moving on can be difficult for children or adults, but Providence Hospice’s grief support services and programs mean they don’t have to make the journey alone.

Find grief support

Providence Hospice of Seattle offers support grief groups for adults, parents, children and people with special needs. Learn more or call 206-749-7702.

Grief support ministries are offered by many parishes in the archdiocese. In addition, these Catholic health care systems offer grief support programs in various counties: