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Bereavement support from licensed counselor volunteer at Providence Hospice

a woman answering the phone

As a professional, Heather Lane is a licensed counselor that works with families in both private practice and non-profit settings. But as a Providence Hospice volunteer, Heather offers the bereavement support that is needed by families who have lost someone they love. And the help she provides is centered on what each person needs, when they need  it.

She’s been volunteering at Providence Hospice once a week for over a year. “The spiritual realm must have had something to do with it,” Heather says. “I was randomly looking through emails and saw a volunteer opportunity for bereavement support. I filled out a form, got a call from Annette [McClain, Providence Hospice Volunteer Coordinator], and that was it.”

Heather loves the work. “It’s a wonderful way to serve people,” she says. “It’s an opportunity for me to give back to the community by donating what I’ve learned.”

“It’s really about normalizing the grief experience by offering love, compassion, and kindness,” Heather says of bereavement counseling.

That donation is her ear to listen to expressions of grief, her words that validate the feelings of loss, and sometimes even her physical presence to comfort the heartbroken families. She says that instead of the advice that may be offered by well-meaning friends, she offers support that shows the bereaved that they are not alone.

“It’s really about normalizing the grief experience by offering love, compassion, and kindness,” she says. “The loved ones really appreciate it.”

Providence Hospice follows up with the families of hospice patients who have died for up to 12 months after the death. Sometimes families ask for a few additional months. “We gladly add more time,” she says.

Most of the support Heather gives is over the phone, but she also meets with people in person when needed. Her clinical experience helps her assess if the families need further support from a chaplain or from monthly support groups.

Heather understands that it may seem daunting to work with people who are experiencing grief, but she encourages everyone to see if it’s something they can do. “Maybe five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. But we grow and change, and with the grace of God, you can do pretty much everything,” she says. “It’s really just about being present for another person. I think we can all do that.”

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