Daffodils For My Darling: The Gift of Hospice

Earlier in the week, I was at an event and there were a number of businesses and non-profit organizations there.  As I walked past some tables, a vase full of flower stems caught my eye and I met a friendly woman at the Abbotsford Hospice Society booth named Marion.  We ended up chatting and I told her that I had visited the local hospice in my area after we lost our son a couple of years ago.  She immediately held out her hand and reached out to me with sincere care and compassion.  Marion told me that she also lost a loved one and was now involved with raising funds as the Capital Campaign Manager for ‘Help Us Light The Way’ to support the services offered by the Abbotsford Hospice. 

We both agreed that hospices are needed in our communities and can make a difference in the lives of families missing a family member or dear friend.  For about a year after Keaton died, I received excellent one-on-one grief support from a well-trained therapist.  It amazes me that the services offered at the hospice were free of charge.  Grief counselling and various support groups are available to those living in the catchment area.  Contact your local organization for more information. 

Many hospices need support to be able to continue providing services so it is important to keep them in mind if you are looking for a worthy cause to donate to.  For example, think about setting aside gently used items and bringing them to a hospice thrift shop.  How about visiting one of these thrift stores the next time you want to go shopping for a unique treasure? 

Monetary funds are needed, but hospices are often looking for volunteers so the gift of time, or resources such as books on grief and other items are welcome.  Businesses can help too!  For example, Lakeland Nurseries kindly dropped off a large donation of flowers for the Abbotsford Hospice to hand out to people attending the event.  Before I left, Marion made sure to give me a bunch.  “They are in honour of your son” she said knowingly with a smile. 

I went home with a fistful of neatly bundled stems topped with little buds and wondered to myself how long it would take for them to grow, but I didn’t have to wonder for long!  Overnight, they bloomed into full daffodils and bright yellow flowers greeted me in the morning.  What a nice surprise…

Through a ministry that I have started, I am collecting teddy bears to give to bereaved families.  I received a message just this morning that someone wants to send me a few dozen teddy bears.  She is moving and thought it would be a good time to pass them on.  How great is that?!  These bears will be lovingly delivered to the local hospices and hospitals in surrounding areas and given directly to parents and siblings missing a little one.  For myself, receiving the gift for Keaton knowing that someone has taken the time to care makes me think about what little things I can do to let others know that they are not alone.        

If you are grieving the loss of a loved one and would like support, consider seeking out services that may be available in your community by contacting: 

bcbereavementhelpline.com.  In the Lower Mainland 604.738.9950 and throughout BC 1.877.779.2223

If there is a hospice nearby, it might be worthwhile to see if grief counselling, support groups and events are available. 

To support the Abbotsford Hospice Contact:

Marion Keys, Capital Campaign Manager – Help Us Light The Way at 60(four).852.2456 or MarionKeys(at)abbotsfordhospice(dot)org or visit them at abbotsfordhospice.org  


Great news!  Canuck Place is expanding services to the Fraser Valley.  The Canuck Place Children’s Hospice will be located next to the Abbotsford Regional Hospital. 

The Surrey Hospice Society is hosting a Walk of Remembrance & Dove Release on May 7th.  I participated in this event last year and went with a group of other bereaved parents that I knew.  It was meaningful to be able to release a dove for Keaton and walk with others who understood my journey.   I wish you peace in yours…       

Note:  If your organization would like us to publish a link to help promote an event for bereaved families, please feel free to contact us and we would be happy to do so. 

Angel Whispers Care Package & Newsletter

This non-profit organization sends care packages to bereaved families which includes their current newsletter and mementos for your child.  I received a cute little angel bear for example, and it sits on our mantle next to Keaton’s photo.

In the latest Spring 2011 Angel Whispers newsletter is the following quote, which I love:

If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember.  You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think; but the most important thing is, even if we’re apart…I will always be with you.

~Winnie the Pooh~

Visit:  www.angelwhispers.ca to view their newsletters and order a free care package.  There is also a memory page called “Angel On a Star“.  The support programs are located in various areas of Alberta.

Wish I Had Known

A couple of things I want to share with healthcare professionals at birthing and NICU units are the letter to parents and an accompanying letter to caregivers. These letters provide tips on how to guide grieving families through the difficult process of having to say “goodbye” to a child.

My goal is for the letter to parents to be given to families at the hospital after being told that their little one has died — before it is too late. This letter outlines what parents can do to bond with their baby within 12 hours of receiving the news. From my experience, and from what other parents have shared, some of these rituals may significantly impact their journey of grief and healing. Families may rely on caregivers such as nurses, doctors, midwives, doulas and social workers for clear direction.

After pouring over books and reading ways that parents could have spent more time with their children before saying their final “goodbyes”, I was prompted to write something that could be passed on to families right away. To be honest, there are things we wish we had done with our son that we never got a chance to.

After hearing that other parents also had regrets and cringing when I heard comments like “I didn’t know I could have had a volunteer photographer take pictures” or “I wish I had known that I could have bathed my baby myself…”, this prompted me to create the letters so that parents could become aware of ways they could spend time with their infants.

About nine months ago, a close friend of mine called and I sensed panic in her voice. Her friend **Nicole was in the hospital and just delivered her full-term daughter who was born still. “What should I do, what can I tell her?” my friend asked. I knew I still had time and rushed home to email the letter to parents before the family left the birthing unit.

Nicole contacted me a few weeks later thanking me for the information and suggestions. This newly bereaved mother wasn’t sure at the time if she wanted photos, but 8 months later she proudly showed me the scrapbook featuring her beautiful daughter’s pictures. “Thank you” she said with sincere gratitude, “I look at the photos of her often, and it helps a lot”.

I’m working on getting this letter out to birthing unit staff, doulas, midwives and social workers. If there is anyone you know who might wish to have this letter via email, feel free to have them contact me directly and I can send it out.

This is what Little Light of Heaven is all about, being able to share with grieving families and caregivers and to let the light of our babies shine through as we reach out to others with faith, hope and love. This is how the healing begins and may it continue…

** Name changed