We support all families who experience the donation process. We offer a number of resources to help families through this difficult time.
Below, you’ll find links to more organizations that provide support resources, as well some helpful information on how to cope in a time of grief:
- Caring for Donor Families provides information and resources to donor families across the country.
- The Compassionate Friends is an international network of support groups and resources for families who have experienced the death of a child.
- The National Donor Family Council offers networking, events, and resources to Donor Families. Their website also houses the National Donor Memorial Quilt and provides a space to set up a memorial tribute to your loved one in their Butterfly Garden.
- Griefshare is a network of grief support groups and other resources. Find the group nearest you on their web site.
- Search Light Moms are based in Everett, WA, and provide support to area mothers grieving the loss of a child.
- National Donor Memorial, hosted by the United Network for Organ Sharing, provides a forum for a memorial garden, donor tributes, and hosts national events for donor families.
What Do We Need During Grief?
You need time alone and time with others whom you trust and who will listen when you need to talk. It takes months and sometimes years to feel and understand the emotions that accompany loss. If at all possible, take extra time off from work. It’s likely your employer will be supportive. Ask about leave benefits, specifically for bereavement. During this same conversation, ask your employer about an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP may be able to offer other benefits and support services, all of which are kept confidential.
Rest and Relaxation
Get plenty of rest and relaxation. You may need more of some things, like hot baths, or afternoon naps.
Exercise and Diversion
Exercise is very important. Walk aerobically for 30 minutes each day with friends, if possible. It may help to have a “cause” to work for or to help others—this may give you a way to live this new life.
Take time for meditation, prayer, or reflection. Grief is an exhausting process emotionally and you will need to replenish yourself. Ask others what helped them in their time of grief. Do what feels healing to you and what connects you to the people and things you love.
Try to reduce or find help for financial or other stresses in your life. Allow yourself to be close to those you trust. Getting into routines helps. You may need to allow yourself to do things at your own pace. Make lists and set priorities. Many life insurance companies have a 90-day filing deadline, so you will want to start processes that are time sensitive.
You may find hope and comfort from those who have experienced a similar loss. Knowing things that helped others and realizing that they have recovered with time will give you hope that sometime in the future your grief will be less raw and overwhelming.
Try to allow yourself to accept the expressions of caring from others even though they may be uneasy and awkward. Others are comforted when you allow them to help you. You may be surprised by the number of people who have experienced something similar. You are not as alone as you may think. Helping someone else who is also experiencing a loss may bring comfort to you both.
For a while, it may seem that much of life is without meaning. At times like these, small goals are helpful. Something to look forward to, like walking with a friend next week, a movie tomorrow night, or a trip next month, will help you get through the present. Living one day at a time is a rule of thumb. At first, don’t be surprised if your enjoyment of these things isn’t the same; this is normal. As time passes, it may be helpful to work on some long-range goals to give some structure and direction to your life.
Do not underestimate the healing effect of small pleasures. Allow yourself to enjoy sunsets, a walk in the woods, a favorite food. All are small steps towards regaining your ability to take pleasure in life.
Permission to Backslide
Sometimes, after a period of feeling good, we find ourselves immersed in the old feelings of extreme sadness, despair, or anger. This is the nature of grief. This may happen over and over, for an extended period of time. It happens because, as humans, we cannot take in the meaning of death, nor the pain that accompanies it all at once. We let it in a little at a time, as we can handle it.
While a family may suffer a common loss, grief is a solitary journey. Each person has their own way and own timetable for dealing with grief, and this is especially noticeable when multiple family members still live under the same roof. Although you have experienced a common loss, the grief path is still a solitary one due to your individual differences. By realizing this and making allowances for one another, it helps hold the feeling of “family” together.
Medications and Seeking Help
Even medications to help people get through periods of shock, used under a physician’s guidance, may prolong and delay the necessary process of grieving. We cannot prevent or cure grief. It has often been said about painful periods of our lives that the only way out is through. The emotional impact of your experience can come to life in any number of ways. If you suspect you need help in working through it, please consider contacting a professional counselor or therapist. Many of them specialize in areas which you may need help. This may include death loss, post traumatic stress, and depression. Help is available. If cost is a concern, ask about sliding-fee scales, or low or no-cost services. Again, ask your employer about what services may be available through an EAP. Short-term counseling is a common benefit.