When I came to intern at Agnesian HealthCare’s Bereavement Center, I didn’t know what to expect. Before starting my internship, I didn’t have any experience working with bereavement, and to be honest I wasn’t sure what bereavement was. At the beginning of my internship, I was told I would be making calls to individuals who had a loved one die. When I heard this, I was nervous that I wouldn’t know what to say to people or that I wouldn’t be able to support them the way that they needed over the phone.
I am now in my third month interning at the Bereavement Center and I absolutely love it. When I make phone calls to the bereaved, I’m excited to talk with them and listen to their stories. I’ve come to learn that there is never a right thing to say to someone who has just had their loved one die and those that are grieving usually aren’t looking for a life changing response from me. Every person that I’ve called is appreciative that someone is calling and taking the time to check in and see how they’re doing since the death of their loved one. The bereaved are grateful that someone is there to listen. I take away something new from this internship every time I leave. I’ve also learned a lot about grief. I have learned from my co-workers and from the bereaved I talk to on the phone that grief is unique for everyone and that each person handles it in their own way.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit in on our Spouse/Partner Support Group, a group for anyone to attend that has lost their spouse or partner. Prior to this experience, I led and helped with the Grief Relief Support Group with children, but hadn’t been a part of a group with adults before. I sat in on it, expecting it to be similar to the children’s group. The Spouse/Partner Group basically ran itself, there were seven people who attended the group. The members talked about the things they’re going through, what makes it easier and some challenges they face when it comes to working through their grief. Some of the members cried throughout the group.
I was shocked and caught off guard when I found myself becoming emotional. I was holding back my own tears while I listened to the others share their stories. I couldn’t stop thinking about my grandpa who had passed away last summer. Everything that the bereaved at group were saying made me think about him and his passing. I didn’t realize that something like that could or would happen to me while I was working. I know it may sound naive to say something like that, but I don’t usually allow my emotions to come to the surface.
I now realize sometimes my grief reactions are out of my control and that is something that comes with the territory when you are grieving the death of a loved one. I later learned I was having a grief burst and I ironically learned this because one of the support group members was talking about having them during the group.
I talked with one of my coworkers about this after the group and she made me feel so much better about the unexpected emotions I experienced. After that experience happened to me, I gained a deeper respect for my co-workers and the work they do for the bereaved population. I’m not even sure why, but I do know that experience was significant for me and my work at the Bereavement Center. I realize more and more each week how great this need is for people to grieve and be able to find support for their needs.
Danielle Reptowski, Bereavement Services Intern