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The Grief Journey
28 April 2021

HCA’s work does not end with the passing of our patients. Caring for the bereaved, who are left to come to terms with the grief and loss, is equally important. Above: The condolence card is sent out to bereaved families shortly after the passing of our patients.

By Jayne Leong, HCA Principal Medical Social Worker

Most of us have lost someone dear to us. For the “fortunate” ones who have yet to experience a personal loss, we will at some point in our lives get there.

HCA CAREs is a pilot initiative founded on the premise that grief is universal to all, yet unique to each of us who experiences it. For some, the journey seems somewhat easier. For others, the path is full of ups and downs. There is nothing in the books that tells us that an anticipated death due to an illness – which may have allowed us some preparation time – is any less painful than one that happened suddenly and unexpectedly.

While the medical and nursing care provided by the home care team for their loved one ends with death, we want to let the bereaved know that they are not alone in their journey of grief.

Connecting and Remembering

HCA CAREs stands for Connecting And Remembering Experiences with you.

Because we are all united in the experience of losing a loved one, we hope to stand in solidarity with the families of our patients in their bereavement. HCA continues to connect and reach out through their first year of bereavement, starting with a condolence card following the demise of their loved one. Subsequently, a series of cards, which we refer to as a ‘Comfort Deck’, will be sent out separately, accompanied by a personal letter from a bereaved family member who has chosen to share their experience and words of comfort. A total of four sets would be sent out over the course of a year.

These Comfort Decks comprise carefully curated quotes and messages, as well as tips and suggested activities that may be helpful to bereaved families as they journey along in their grief.

Beginning with Self-Care

Chapter One of the Comfort Decks.

In the immediate days following the loss of a loved one, learning to say goodbye and taking care of oneself after a period of caregiving are especially important. Chapter One: Farewell & Self-Care offers tips on understanding grief and how to cope or reach out to various resources. At the back of each of these cards, a gentle prompt asks the bereaved to consider ways that they can take care of themselves.  

Chapter Two of the Comfort Decks.

As we continue on the journey of grief in the months that follow, we also remember shared memories. Chapter Two: Remembering includes rituals the bereaved can partake in to remember their loved one. It also encourages the bereaved to think about the words and memories that they hold dear. 

Chapter Three of the Comfort Decks.

In Chapter Three: Continuing Bonds, the deck encourages the bereaved to think about cherished moments, acknowledging that their loved one will always be in their hearts, even if they are no longer around physically. 

Chapter Four of the Comfort Decks.

Around the one-year death anniversary, there is a gentle prompt on the cards in Chapter Four: Hope & Legacy, to acknowledge the death anniversary and honour the memory of their loved one. The cards also encourage the bereaved to consider the legacy that their loved one had left behind and their hopes for the future. 

A Listening Ear

The journey of grief is a convoluted one. For those who may need a listening ear and want to reach out to us for more support or resources on coping with grief, there is a helpline that is available during office hours. This helpline is manned by trained psychosocial professionals, who can provide bereavement support and counselling, as well as referrals to support resources in the community.

There are good days when we go about our normal routines without missing a beat, but there are also some not-so-good days, when we experience sudden waves of intense emotions and heartache, while reminiscing about our loved one. We might wonder where and how they are, and if they are somewhere in another part of the universe looking over and after us.

Most people adjust and cope normally with the loss of their loved one over time. HCA CAREs is a universal bereavement care approach that reaches out to all – to let them know that HCA cared for your loved one, and will continue to care for you. And that we are here if you need us.

If you have a personal story, a reflection or a recollection about your loved one that you would like to share with us, or wish to write a message to encourage another bereaved individual on this journey, we are happy to hear them. Please write to us at pss@hcahospicecare.org.sg, or send us a WhatsApp message at 9789 9217.