Events & Resources
There are various aspects of the program designed to provide families with events, resources and support both before and after the death of a child.
Celebration of Life
This group memorial service for families, friends and staff is held six times during the year. The purpose of the Celebration of Life is to provide for families who have recently lost their child a ceremony to honor and remember them. The ceremony has readings, music, candle lighting, an opportunity for families to share stories and memories of their child, and a heart-to-heart talk by the Bereavement Parent Liaison. At the Celebration of Life, resources for support are make available to the families. Each ceremony typically has between 22 and 35 children remembered and has between 50 and 150 people in attendance. The ceremonies are held both in a large meeting room in the Hospital and in our Healing Garden during the summer months.
Our Gatherings provide regular activities and events for families to honor their child and gain support from families with similar losses. They bring bereaved families who have experienced the death of a child together in a supportive setting for sharing their experiences, gaining knowledge about their grief process, and meeting other families who have also lost a child. At these events, families are engaged in an activity that allows them to honor their child who died and talk about it with themselves and other family members or friends who have come with them.
The Gatherings are open to everyone in the child's family, including adults and children. The families work together on projects that are intended to provide ways to honor their child who died. The events give us the opportunity to share resources with the families, such as bereavement support groups, counseling and educational events; to increase their awareness of help that is available to them; and to increase their knowledge about grief.
Because these events are multifaceted in terms of their activities and multigenerational in terms of the population in attendance, they provide a unique and regular way for bereaved families to get support. These events allow participants to engage an activity that honors their child and allows people to express their grief or simply listen to others. No one is expected to share their experiences, unless they want to. In this way, there is a sense of safety for many who are not comfortable talking about their feelings, but value being with people with a similar loss.
Professional support is available to families at each event. Each event has five to six paid professional clinical staff in attendance, including chaplains, nurses, child life specialists and social workers. Each of these professional clinicians has been professionally trained for helping adults and children cope with the death of a child. In addition, we have a Bereaved Parent Liaison and Bereaved Parent Volunteers at the events to give peer-to-peer support and help facilitate our family chats.
While the vast numbers of these families are associated with Rady Children's , these events are also available to families in the community whose child was not at Rady Children's.
Bereavement Parent Liaison
Kathleen Stark is both a bereaved parent and a certified grief facilitator. She provides individualized bereavement support through cards, letters and phone calls to bereaved families. Kathleen responds to referrals from our HOPE hotline, from staff and from the community to reach out to families who need to talk about their loss.
Mom's Time Out
This program is also led by Kathleen Stark. This activity brings moms together for therapeutic "walk-and-talk" sessions with Kathleen. The mom's will have an opportunity to express their grief, get peer support. and gain knowledge and insight on the grief process from Kathleen.
The HOPE Hotline is the central phone number for the HOPE program and message center which families can call anytime to request assistance with their grief, whether it be peer to peer connections, bereavement counseling, and/or connecting with community resources, groups or therapists. The hotline is also used for families to RSVP for events and to get more information about upcoming events. The Hotline number is 858-966-8400.
Resources for Honoring a Child
We provide materials to families to have a loving ritual of saying goodbye and of a way of honoring their child. These resources are a vital way for families to grieve the death of or pending death of their precious child.
The following materials are used by a variety of disciplines including chaplains, nurses, physicians, social workers and child life specialists, and may include:
- A Memory Box for holding the child's mementos and a place for staff to place poems and resources for grief.
- A Memory Tile on which has the child’s hand print and/or footprint. Together families and staff help create wording to be put on the tile. They are then sent out to be designed, have wording painted on them, glazed and fired. The result are beautiful tiles that will help the families honor their child for many years into the future. These are then either given to the family directly upon their return to Rady Children’s or at the Celebration of Life Ceremony, or they can be mailed to the family. The HOPE program pays for the tiles and paint, as well as costs associate with mailing the tile to the families once completed.
- A disposable camera is provided for the family, if they desire to take pictures.
- A card to place a lock of hair.
- Hand and footprints on card stock. These are in addition to the tiles.
- Bereavement Information booklet, prepared and printed at the Hospital. This booklet is a collection of information and resources for the families after the death of their child. The booklet is available in English and Spanish. It is updated on a regular basis.
- Booklets for parents and siblings pertaining to the grief related to the loss of a child to assist in building greater understanding of the various experiences they may feel.
- Follow-up cards are provided by the Bereavement program and are posted on nursing units for two weeks following a child’s death to allow staff to sign and send their condolences.
While the materials are simple, the rituals and remembrances that they bring are very, very important to our families. This cannot be emphasized enough. The materials also provide a way for staff to help families create memories during perhaps the most painful moments of their lives.
- Hope Bereavement Support Program
- Phone: 858-966-8400