Hospice of Southern Maine held its eighth annual Thresholds Conference on Wednesday, May 2, focused on “Making Space for Grief in our Lives.” A sold-out audience of more than 500 attended to hear from national bestselling author and chaplain with the Maine Warden Service Kate Braestrup. Senior members of the Hospice of Southern Maine leadership, and a panel of five community members also shared their own stories of loss and grief. Tory Ryden, a broadcast journalist, moderated the event.
Braestrup’s first husband, Maine State Trooper Drew Griffith, was killed in the line of duty in 1996, leaving her a widow with four young children. In her current role as chaplain, she joins the Maine wardens as they search for those who have lost their way, and offers comfort to those who wait for loved ones to be rescued, or their bodies to be recovered. Braestrup offered her insights on the role of grief in the workplace from the perspective of the law enforcement community, and acknowledged Somerset County Deputy Cpl. Eugene Cole, who was killed in Norridgewock last week: “This week there is a lot of grief in the law enforcement community. It’s a privilege to be there with them. We have a saying: we can’t subtract grief but we can add more love. As Gene’s family walks through the valley of the shadow of death, they will not fear evil. They will not be alone. This loss will teach all of us to do even more of this foolish crazy thing we do. It will teach us to love more.”
Following Braestrup’s presentation, Daryl Cady, CEO of Hospice of Southern Maine, and End of Life Educator & Bereavement Services Manager Carol Schoneberg further discussed grief in the workplace and announced Hospice of Southern Maine’s new bereavement leave policy, which now grants employees up to 7 days of paid bereavement time. “Grief naturally robs you of the skills you need,” Schoneberg said. She referenced statistics from The Grief Index, which found that 85 percent of management ranked decision-making capacity from very poor to fair in the week/months following the death of a loved one. Schoneberg encouraged employers to educate themselves and their management teams long before a crisis occurs on how to best support a grieving employee who returns to work.
Hospice of Southern Maine CEO Daryl Cady shared her personal story of losing her fiance in 2007 and her rushed return to work after only a few days to grieve. “Often people steered clear of me, afraid of me if I showed the tiniest bit of emotion. As a woman executive in the business world, I was supposed to be so stoic. Yet I had come apart at the seams. Now I’m so proud as the CEO of Hospice of Southern Maine to offer our employees up to seven days of paid time, as well as an employee assistance program, grief counseling, and a wonderfully supportive group of chaplains and social workers.” Her message for other employers: “Above all, be understanding and have an open heart.”
The conference concluded with a panel discussion featuring community members who spoke about their own experiences of losing a loved one. From a mother who lost a daughter to suicide, a father who lost his son to opioid addiction, a son who lost his father unexpectedly, a mother who lost her son to a brain tumor, and a husband and father of four children who lost his wife to colon cancer, each panelist spoke transparently about their grieving process and offered inspiration to others through their stories of pain and growth through their grief.
Hospice of Southern Maine serves over 1600 patients annually in Cumberland and York Counties and provided bereavement services to over 3600 people last year. Free bereavement support is available to anyone in the community in the form of counseling or support groups, regardless of whether their loved one died in the care of hospice.
As a follow up to the Thresholds Conference, Hospice of Southern Maine will present a series of community forums on grief. Forums are free and include a light meal.
- Kennebunk – Thursday, June 28 @ 5:30 pm, Kennebunk Savings Operations Center
- Scarborough – Saturday, October 20 @ 12:00 PM, Hospice of Southern Maine
- York – Wednesday, November 7 @ 5:30 pm, First Parish Congregational Church
- Scarborough – Thursday, November 15 @ 5:30 pm, Hospice of Southern Maine
Registration is required and is available by visiting www.hospiceofsouthernmaine.org/thresholds or calling 207-289-3643.
About Thresholds Conference
The Anne L. Hunter Memorial Thresholds Conference is an annual educational event, designed to provide the public, clinicians, social workers and caregivers the knowledge and tools to understand hospice care and end of life. Now in its eighth year, thanks to a generous endowment from the estate of the Reverend Anne L. Hunter, MD, Thresholds brings the Southern Maine community together to talk about end of life.
About Hospice of Southern Maine
Hospice of Southern Maine’s mission is to provide compassion, care, and comfort through end of life. Formed through a collaborative effort among York and Cumberland County leaders and health care providers, Hospice of Southern Maine (HSM) organized in 2001 and began providing direct patient services in 2004. Today, HSM cares for more than 1,600 patients annually, at the patient’s home, current care facility, and Gosnell Memorial Hospice House, an 18-bed inpatient facility in Scarborough. HSM admits patients with a variety of diagnoses, including Alzheimer’s; heart, lung, and kidney diseases; stroke; Lou Gehrig’s disease; and cancer. Care is patient-centered with family support and provided by a comprehensive interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, social workers, aides, chaplains, grief counselors, and volunteers. Hospice of Southern Maine is a non-profit 501(c)3, Medicare certified state licensed agency, and the largest provider of hospice services in Southern Maine. To learn more, visit www.hospiceofsouthernmaine.org.
Photo Caption: Left to right: Hospice of Southern Maine End of Life Educator & Bereavement Services Manager Carol Schoneberg, Hospice of Southern Maine CEO Daryl Cady, Keynote Speaker Kate Braestrup, Event Moderator Tory Ryden