Grief Awareness Week at the U-M Health System: May 16-20, 2016

May 10: Addressing Compassion Fatigue in High - Loss Environments - Special Pre Grief Awareness Week Event 12-1pm CVC Board Room 5321

As healthcare professionals, we engage in meaningful and dynamic work, which at times can also be difficult. Taking care of others and witnessing their suffering can take its toll, impacting us in our professional and personal lives. Offered in conjunction with Grief Awareness Week at UMHS, this workshop is designed to illustrate the consequences of compassion fatigue and burn-out and the ways in which self-care can help alleviate our secondary trauma, particularly in high-loss environments. Participants will learn how to create a personalized self-care plan for sustainable renewal. Facilitated by the professional staff of the UMHS Employee Assistance Program. Please contact EAP at (734) 763-5409 or email to register for the workshop.

May 16: Schwartz Rounds. Noon - 1 p.m., Ford Auditorium.

The Schwartz Rounds discussion, “Cultural Expressions of Grief” will explore differences in cultural expressions of grief and rituals common at end of life as well as how staff responds. Also discussion about how staff navigates these difficulties while respecting cultural beliefs of both the patient and family. Also of interest for discussion is how different professional disciplines have different boundaries with regard to expression of grief. .For more information about Swartz Rounds visit

May 17: “The Gift of Conscious Grief” Roxane Chan, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, LMT 3-4pm Dow Auditorium- sponsored by Nursing Professional Dev & Ed. Approved for 1.0 nursing CE and social work CEU

The purpose of this program is to improve health care workers ability to acknowledge loss in the workplace and to develop a personalized holistic framework from which they can experience, honor and process loss in the work place individually and as a team. The speaker will highlight the components of complex grief in the health care setting, help staff evaluate their physical, emotional and cognitive experience of grief and loss, and help individuals create a holistic self-care program that will honor and support grief processing and release. Roxane is a 2013 U of M PhD, nursing graduate, concentrating in health promotion risk reduction.  She is currently an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University. Sponsored by Nursing Professional Dev & Ed and approved for 1.0 nursing CE and social work CEU.  For more information:

May 18. “Laughing in the Face of Death: Movies, Medicine, and Mortality” Lecture by Gail Rubin, CT.  12:30-2:30p.m. Ford Auditorium. Lunch provided to first 125 attendees. Approved for 1.5 Social Work CEU/Nursing CE pending

In hospitals, medical professionals, patients and families focus on maintaining life and returning to health. Despite great advances in medical care, humans still have a 100% mortality rate. Using funny films, we’ll examine hospital personnel reactions to mortality and offer ways to relieve the pressure of working around death.
Films include Patch Adams, Terms of Endearment, Little Miss Sunshine, Critical Care, The Doctor, Wit, Young Frankenstein, Death Becomes Her and the TV show Scrubs.

About the Presenter: Gail Rubin, CT, is a Certified Thanatologist (a death educator) who uses humor and funny films to help teach about end-of-life issues. An award-winning speaker, she "knocked 'em dead" at TEDxABQ in 2015 (watch the video She’s the author of A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die, Hail and Farewell: Cremation Ceremonies, Templates and Tips, and the forthcoming book, Kicking the Bucket List: 100 Downsizing and Organizing Things to Do Before You Die (Rio Grande Books).

Gail is also a Certified Funeral Celebrant, a pioneer of the Death Café movement in the United States, and an informed advocate for pre-need funeral planning. She’s a member of the Association for Death Education and Counseling, the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, Toastmasters International and the National Speakers Association New Mexico Chapter.

May 19: Viewing Party: Second Chance Screening of Past Grief Awareness Week Events, Drop-in event 9-4:00 pm, MCHC auditorium. Pop Corn bar and resource table provided

Come and view past grief awareness week events at your leisure. These events are also featured on the Office of Decedent Affairs website at . Snacks and resource materials will be provided.
Events to be featured are as follows:

Lecture by Vic Strecher, MPH, Ph.D. “On Purpose: New Directions in Life, Death and Health.”
In 2010, Vic Strecher suffered the terrible loss of his 19-year-old daughter, Julia, to a rare heart condition. This tragedy set him on a new course of discovery that continues to this day. In 2014, he released "On Purpose: Lessons in Life and Health From the Frog, Dung Beetle, and Julia," a graphic novel that combines the very personal story of coping with the loss of his daughter with ancient philosophy in a modern, multimedia format.

Film “Transforming Loss.”
This film shows how several courageous yet ordinary people created meaningful lives after experiencing profound death experiences. A panel discussion after the film will feature the filmmaker Judith Burdick and Gary Weinstein, one of the film’s participants whose powerful story of transforming his loss into forgiveness after a tragic accident is inspiring.

Lecture by Therese Rando, PhD “Loss and Grief in Medical Practice: How it affects patients and staff
Clinical Psychologist Therese Rando has written over 80 works pertaining to the clinical aspects of thanatology. Some of her works include: Treatment of Complicated Mourning (1983), How To Go on Living When Someone you Love Dies (1991), Grief, Dying and Death: Clinical Interventions for Caregivers (1984), and Treating Traumatic Bereavement: A Practitioner’s Guide (2014, co-author). Dr. Rando has consulted, conducted research, provided therapy, written, and lectured nationally and internationally in areas related to loss, grief, illness, dying, and trauma. Dr. Rando also serves on the Editorial Boards of Death Studies and Omega. For more information,

May 20: Grief and Gratitude. 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. Danto Auditorium.  Lunch provided to first 125 attendees.

A panel discussion with members of three families who lost a loved one at UMHS. Their stories will inspire our work and help us understand how the smallest things can make the biggest difference.

May 21: University Hospital Memorial Service, 1:00 pm, Towsely Center, UH

This ceremony will pay tribute to the adult UMHS patients who have died both in the hospital and at home under the care of ambulatory clinics over the last year. We hope you will join us to honor their memories, and celebrate their light. Staff is welcome to attend.

Throughout Grief Awareness Week

Grief Wall: From May16-20
The windows in University Hospital, C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and the Frankel Cardiovascular Center will serve as a resource for faculty, staff, patients and visitors to express their grief. Using paint markers on the windows, our community will have an opportunity to share thoughts, messages, poems and coping strategies related to their personal loss and grief stories. This is an interactive way to display personal expression of grief and coping, and connect us all to this universal human experience.

Before I Die: From May 16-20 unit based and work areas across the health system
After losing someone she loved and experiencing deep depression, artist Candy Chang created an interactive wall on an abandoned house in her neighborhood to create an anonymous place to help restore perspective and share intimately with neighbors while remaining an introvert. After receiving permission, she painted the side of an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stenciled it with a grid of the sentence, “Before I die I want to _______.” Anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public space. For more information about Candy Chang and the “Before I Die” movement visit: and

Self-Guided Tour U-M Museum of Art: Art, Loss and Renewal. 525 S. State St., Ann Arbor. Grief Awareness Week is a time to honor the challenging work we do for patients, families and colleagues. Art, Loss & Renewal is a special self-guided tour at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA). The self-guided tour offers the opportunity to reflect on human experiences of loss, grief, compassion and renewal from many different cultures and perspectives. For information and to print the program, visit This program is co-sponsored by Gifts of Art

About Grief Awareness Week
The purpose of Grief Awareness Week is to increase awareness and acknowledge staff losses across the health system.  This week will be focused on grief related to patient loss, staff loss, and personal loss. Several events would be offered throughout the week at different times of the day and evening to renew the “head, heart, and spirit”.

Many health systems across the county designate a week out of the year to recognize the impact grief has on health care providers. Over 1000 deaths a year occur within the hospital setting while hundreds more die at home under the care of ambulatory staff and home care workers. There is often no time for staff to mourn their losses or acknowledge the emotional impact.

Unrecognized effects of cumulative grief can lead to burn out and stress. This type of professional burnout may result in increased absenteeism, loss of productivity, staff turnover, and low morale.
Social workers, Sue Sefansky (Office of Decedent Affairs) and Lisbeth Harcourt (Lung Transplant Program and Transplant Cumulative Grief Committee Chair) identified an unmet need for staff to unite and have a formal way to reflect upon deaths while also celebrating the work they do. It is apparent that healthcare providers working in an environment of suffering and multiple losses have a need for grief support and education. Currently, the Employee Assistance Program, unit based social workers, and spiritual care provides exceptional support to staff related to the difficulties of caring for dying patients. By offering an annual grief awareness week we will provide encouragement and support to continue the challenging, high quality work that needs to be done.

Grief Awareness Week 2016 is being co- chaired by Social workers Lisbeth Harcourt, Program Manager Office of Decedent Affairs, and Meghan Theil, Adult Palliative Care. They are thrilled to present the 3rd annual schedule of events. They remain committed to recognizing a need for grief support and education among our health care workers who are often in an environment of loss and suffering. They chair a multidisciplinary committee that includes Transport Services, Environmental Services, Security, Nursing, M.D.'s, Child Life, UMHS Employee Assistance Program, Spiritual Care, Gifts of Art, Social Work, Care Management, Patient and Family Centered Care, Public Information Office, and Interpreter Services, among many others. Please direct questions about the week to either Lisbeth or Meghan.

This year's Grief Awareness Week is sponsored and supported by the Frankel Cardiovascular Center, Department of Social Work, Department of Pathology, The Transplant Center, Mhealthy/EAP, Patient Family Centered Care, Nursing Professional Development and Education, Gifts of Art, Spiritual Care, and University of Michigan Museum of Art.

For more information about past Grief Awareness Week activities and resources about grief and loss, go to