We believe that our commitment to care for the families of children receiving medical care at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital does not end if their child dies. In response the UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital CPCCP has developed a number of resources to support bereaved families and their health care providers. These efforts have been led by Gina Kornfeind, MSW, MA, the Support & Bereavement Coordinator for CPCCP. Gina is passionate about helping families cope with grief and learn to live with their "new normal." She also cares deeply about how all pediatric staff copes with loss and death.
Comforting Hearts (CHFBG) is a group that provides a safe place for parents and siblings to cope with the death of a child and to share grief with others. Through this group, we offer support and help families find strength, hope, and healing at their own pace. The group meets twice monthly at St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Westwood (who donates space) from 6:30-8:30 pm. We provide a light supper followed by separate concurrent support groups for parents and siblings of the child who died.
We offer an annual memorial service, held in late summer, for UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital families who have had a child die. This event is held on the UCLA Westwood campus and is offered to all pediatric families and staff to come together to remember and celebrate their children. A ceremony accompanied with words written by families and spoken by staff is followed by a reception. There are also craft tables with grief oriented projects for both the families and the siblings. The families are very grateful for an opportunity to gather and publicly remember their child as well as connect with other families who truly understand what they are experiencing. In addition, there is the opportunity to reconnect with hospital staff who attends. Many families tell us that they look forward to this opportunity to honor their child's life every year.
The CPCCP has created an on-line bereavement resource database designed to help social workers and bereavement coordinators make individualized support or grief plans for specific families. This database includes referrals for funeral homes, mortuaries, support groups, hospices, financial assistance, specialized camps, sibling information and a bibliography of books to help with grief. In addition, Gina and our team have developed "Regional Resource Sheets" covering 10 different counties from San Diego to Merced that have the four best bereavement support groups in that area along with several websites which offer support for families. We are in the process of producing a booklet titled "Coping with Grief When Your Child Dies" that every family who has a child die in the hospital will receive.
Staff who work at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital are exposed to trauma, loss and death. Opportunities for staff to debrief critical incidents and to discuss morally distressing issues are critical in order to prevent compassion fatigue and staff burnout. The goal of our staff support services is to reduce the impact of difficult events and to accelerate the return to normal. It also assists with the retention of employees as we hope to prevent burnout. Through our staff support services, the CPCCP provides structured debriefings on pediatric units as well as offer individual consultation upon request. The CPCCP team also provides in-service trainings and lectures to larger groups of staff.