Grief support available to all in community

While the grieving process is different for each person and each situation, grief always takes time. We support families and loved ones for months, and sometimes years. Each month, our bereavement team meets personally with about 120 people of all ages, and reaches out to even more with letters, cards, and phone calls. Mission Hospice & Home Care offers a wide range of programs available to everyone in the community.

Although much of this care is not reimbursed by insurance, our goal is to make grief support available to everyone who needs it. All of our bereavement programs are free or offered on a sliding scale, thanks to generous support from our donors and volunteers.

“Some people grieve intellectually, others emotionally. Some grieve privately, others need to share,” says Bereavement Coordinator Isabel Stenzel, LCSW. “That’s why we have programs to let people express themselves with art rather than words, or simply to learn about the grief process.”

Our expert grief counselors can help people understand the grief process, offer a safe place to express grief, reduce isolation, and help people gain confidence and set goals for a hopeful future.

Individual counseling and drop-in support groups

Our specially trained social workers provide individual grief counseling and lead free drop-in support groups open to all in San Mateo, Half Moon Bay, and Pacifica (details are on our events calendar).

“There’s real diversity in our groups,” says Isabel. “Some people are days from their loss; others are years from their loss. The more experienced people can be models for survival.”

“Hearing others in my support group describe what I was feeling but could not express – even to myself – helped to normalize my experience and allowed me to begin healing,” says Janise Belson, volunteer.

Fellow volunteer Ernie Roeder, also a support group alumnus, says “Attending the support group was painful at times, yet comforting. As time went on, I was better able to cope with my deep grief due to the support of Mission Hospice.”

Specialized groups and workshops

Some groups are designed around particular populations, such as those who have lost a parent or a partner. One of our new groups, “Resilience in Grief,” is for people who lost a loved one six or more months ago; the group helps them learn skills and strategies for reengaging in life.

Mission Hospice also offers several groups and day-long workshops to help people express and understand their grief through writing, creative expression, or organizing the belongings of someone who has died. These can help people who want to process grief in ways other than open discussion.

Complicated grief treatment

Fairly common but little recognized, complicated grief is when someone a year or more from a loss experiences intense avoidance and distress around accepting the reality of the death. “Most people with grief go through a trajectory of integrating the grief,” says Isabel. “Those with complicated grief get stuck, and need help adapting.”

With training from Dr. Katherine Shear, founder of the Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia University, our staff now offers evidence-based treatment for complicated grief. We also host Dr. Shear several times a year to train other professionals.

Care for the entire team

Grief support is also critical for our own staff and volunteers, as well as for staff in facilities where our patients live. “As people who see death frequently,” says Meechal Itzkowitz Hall, LCSW, Bereavement Coordinator, “we have to acknowledge that we are affected, and need support as well.”

Our bereavement counselors help everyone on our team understand their grief, know how to care for themselves, and avoid burnout.

Volunteers key to the program

These programs are all organized and led by our small but mighty grief support team, which includes licensed social workers with specialized bereavement training, bereavement interns who work alongside our experienced therapists, and our trained bereavement volunteers.

These volunteers are integral to our grief support program: they write cards, make phone calls, and even sew keepsake pillows from the clothing of loved ones.

Together, our bereavement team is committed to ensuring that anyone in our community who is grieving a loss is able to get the support they need. 

For more information about grief support or volunteering, call 650.554.1000.