New York State Funeral Directors Association

Grief endures long after the loss of a loved one.

And that’s why a Queens hospital reaches out to families for a year after the devastating loss of a child.

Despite the serious nature of illnesses faced by youngsters at St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children, NYS Tribute Foundation board member JoAnne Sullivan found inspiration during a recent tour there.

“It’s uplifting when you hear the stories,” said Sullivan, who visited the facility to deliver a grant from the NYS Tribute Foundation’s annual grant program.

The Bayside, New York hospital specializes in caring for children with complex medical cases including traumatic brain injury, neurological disorders, HIV/AIDS, congenital heart disease and others.

A pioneer in developing inpatient palliative care, St. Mary’s Hospital for Children is recipient of a $5,000 grant.

The funding will support the hospital’s bereavement services to help families face the pain of loss and cope with the grief that follows the death of a child.

Bereavement is not a focus many organizations provide grants for, said Jacquie D’Aria, Director of Institutional Gifts at St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children.

“This has been a wonderful grant for us,” D’Aria said.Bereavement programs – which include counseling, materials and other resources to help families face the grief of loss – are not paid for by health insurance, D’Aria said.

At St. Mary’s, the loss of a patient is felt system wide – and marked by lighting a candle in the patient’s room and in the main lobby.

The family is invited to participate in a yearlong program which includes meeting with staff who cared for the child, letters of support during bereavement and resources and materials to help them cope.

Family members are given a keepsake containing special memories, like the child’s artwork, writings and other items they collected while the child was there.

It’s all part of the hospital system’s “CARES” program, which stands for Compassion, Acceptance, Renewal, Empathy and Support, D’Aria said.

“We’re really appreciative of the support of the NYS Tribute Foundation.A Memorial Garden Honors Children at St. Mary's Hospital for Children in Queens

It’s really critical to help us accomplish our mission and support families,” D’Aria said.

How to help family members after a death is a lesser-known focus many don’t consider until they face it, Sullivan said.

“Unless it touches your life personally, you don’t think about this,” Sullivan said.

It’s a heart-wrenching outcome that’s difficult to face – both for family members and for staff in hospitals working to help.

At St. Mary’s, there is a Hospital Chaplain available for spiritual support and to offer guidance and help with funeral and burial planning.

There’s also a team in place to ensure specific religious practices are honored as well.

Each year, St. Mary’s holds a memorial service to honor the memory of patients who passed away.

They hold a tree-planting, too, in the memorial garden outside the facility.

These steps, and others, aim to help all those involved move forward with their lives while carrying that grief.

Despite the challenges these children face, Sullivan said she perceived a great deal of life in the walls of St. Mary’s Hospital for Children.

“There’s also a lot of happiness. It’s just humbling,” Sullivan said.


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New York State 
Tribute Foundation

1 South Family Drive
Albany, NY 12205
Phone: 518-452-8230
Fax: 518-452-8667
kelly@nysfda.org