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Bereavement service contributes to healing

04 June 2017 Blog
Pastoral services
Death and dying are not easy to face and it is with great admiration that we recognise those amongst us who ease this journey for the loved ones of patients who have died in our hospitals.


The Values of St John of God Health Care encourage us and support us to offer this care and to provide compassion to another in their pain and suffering.

Our pastoral services caregivers make themselves available to help partners and families through the natural process of bereavement and grief. The support is non-religious based and offered to all.

That care may come at the time of death, when some practical advice is provided about the arrangements that need to be made.

A sympathy card sent to the next of kin acknowledges the passing of their loved one and extends the support that is available to them from the pastoral care team.

The gesture of the card alone can trigger a companion or family members to reach out to the pastoral team for their support.

It is in the months after the death where the impact of reaching out to those grieving is most appreciated according to St John of God Midland Public Hospital Pastoral Services Manager Fran Ball.

“This is usually around the time when family members or carers have had to get back into some semblance of a ‘normal’ life,” Fran said.

“We make a phone call to the next of kin, they are usually surprised to hear from us but often they are ready and happy to talk about their loved one.”

“We ask them how they are going, how they are coping and about the funeral and how life is treating them now,” Fran said.

“If it’s needed we offer further advice or referrals to community services, particularly if it is someone who is feeling isolated following the death, perhaps of a lifelong partner.”

A remembrance service is held every four months at St John of God Midland Public Hospital, and similarly at our other St John of God Health Care hospitals, it is attended by around a quarter of those who have been extended an invitation to return to the hospital where their loved one died.

“It’s an ecumenical service of no more than half an hour but for those who have chosen to attend they tell us it’s just enough,” Fran said.

“It is courageous to come back, for most it is not a great memory.

“I tell them that we are holding you, and support you and that the hospital now holds a part of your loved one’s story.

“There is a sense of anxiety at the beginning but generally they leave with a sense of calm and appreciate the gesture, the hospitality and the courtesy of being thought of.

“We have people say that the bereavement service has given them the opportunity to stop again and to have a cry because life gets busy again.

“A father at last week’s service cried for the very first time since his wife’s death, as up until then he’d felt he needed to be strong for the rest of the family.

“They say to us that it’s nice to just sit amongst people, even if they don’t know them, who have come together for the same reason,” Fran said.

St John of God Health Care has conducted research into its approach to bereavement service that has found it to be helpful to bereaved families.

A study conducted at our Subiaco Hospital found that a bereavements service offers an opportunity to complete the cycle of care which begins at the time of admission.

The care families of dying patients receive from hospital staff prior to and after death is perceived as very important and may contribute to their individual healing.