Special to The Dallas Examiner
MIAMI, Fla. – VITAS Healthcare, the nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care, launched a nationwide grief helpline on Tuesday. The initiative will open access to its nationwide network of bereavement and psychosocial experts to support anyone in the country suffering from grief after the death of a loved one during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The VITAS Grief Helpline also is available to members of the health care community who need emotional support related to grief, death and loss as a result of their experiences on the COVID-19 front lines. All health care workers can take advantage of an online support event led by experienced counselors. Those in need can call the grief helpline at 866-800-4707 through May 29 between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. EDT. They can also visit http://www.vitas.com/helpline. Front-line health care workers should identify themselves when they call to be connected with specialized support services.
“As health care workers who specialize in support for the dying, we have unique insight into what family members and health care professionals are experiencing,” said Joseph Shega, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer for VITAS Healthcare. “We can help the country deal with the widespread feelings of grief and loss caused by this pandemic.”
Established in 1978, the health care agency is a pioneer and leader in the American hospice movement. Headquartered in Miami, Florida, it operates 48 hospice programs in 14 states, including Texas and the District of Columbia.
With more than 40 years of experience providing end-of-life care, the health care organization has the proven expertise to support people who are grieving, particularly during national tragedies. For example, it provided support for those impacted by the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, the 2018 California wildfires, and school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida.
VITAS’ nearly 50 counselors are highly trained grief specialists and their expertise is now available to anyone in need, including a dedicated virtual support group for front-line health care workers. Other virtual support groups over the phone and via teleconference platforms are available year-round for general grief, spouses, veterans, LGBT+, young adults, children, Spanish-speaking audiences, and others on the website under http://www.vitas.com/supportgroups.
“When we saw health care workers taking their own lives as a result of the extraordinary tragedies they have witnessed, we knew that it was critical to open our arms to those who were pressed into active service during the pandemic,” Shega said.
The grief helpline is part of a continuum of bereavement services offered by the organization. This includes counseling for the loved ones of a hospice patient during the patient’s life and in the months following a death, home visits from bereavement specialists – chaplains, social workers and volunteers – connection to community grief therapists, and Memory Bears. The bears are made from the material of loved one’s clothing or other fabric, which can help bring back good memories, helping to ease the pain and offer comfort. More information and grief resources may be found on the website in the Grief and Bereavement section, under Family & Caregiver Support.