The death of a loved one takes a major toll on close family and friends. And sometimes, it keeps on taking.
Those facing the loss of somebody close can endure numbness that never seems to end, others face a persistent difficulty just imagining life without their loved one.
People drowning in grief need help, and a support program serving residents in Westchester County is taking the work seriously.
The New York State Tribute Foundation selected Hospice & Palliative Care of Westchester to receive a $3,500 grant.
The support will contribute towards the Hospice service’s Bereavement Program, an effort that provides professional help to guide people through the difficult steps of life that follow a death.
NYS Tribute Foundation board member William F. Flooks Jr., a funeral director, said he gets calls from people struggling with the aftermath of a death and often refers them to their local clergy person and then to professionals at the Westchester Hospice.
“A lot of people do not know where to turn. Sometimes, they need more than we can provide them,” Flooks said.
Funeral directors do their best to calm and console family members, but Flooks said difficult cases of grief are best addressed by professionals who study grief and bereavement.
While the NYS Tribute Board was reviewing needy causes, Flooks said it struck him that an organization like the Westchester Hospice was facing the loss of funding due to federal budgeting issues like sequestration.
Added to complications in getting federal support is a federal mandate that Hospices arrange for bereavement counseling.
This adds a level of complication because the primary form of assistance for Hospice – Medicare – doesn’t pay for bereavement counseling.
The NYS Tribute Foundation’s grant helps defray the cost, Flooks said.
For more than 20 years, Westchester Hospice & Palliative Care’s board of directors has ensured funding availability for its bereavement program, welcoming assistance from individual donors, financial support derived from events and grants from corporations and foundations.
In the days and weeks after a death, staff at Hospice & Palliative Care of Westchester follow up with family members periodically.
It gives them a way to stay connected and inform people of the various levels of available help.
Westchester Hospice & Palliative Care sends sympathy cards to families they made contact with at the Hospice when a loved one dies.
They make condolence phone calls and mail information on services that are available to help people cope. Staff at the Westchester Hospice made nearly 500 calls in 2014 and provided more than 400 loved ones with information to help them.
Those wrestling with the loss are availed individual counseling and directed to support groups after a few months.
Individual counseling is also available for those struggling with loss – nearly 100 people were able to get help this way in 2014, according to Westchester Hospice & Palliative Care.
Every year, the organization welcomes family members and the community at large to remember those who died.
The group conducted a symbolic release of Monarch and Painted Lady butterflies before gathering to read aloud the names of those they lost.
Mary K. Spengler, MS, executive director at Westchester Hospice & Palliative Care, said the event gives family and friends “a meaningful opportunity to remember and acknowledge their loved ones with a beautiful tribute.”
The NYS Tribute Foundation accepts applications for its grant program each year. Learn more about the NYS Tribute Foundation grant program.