Keep love present when coping with grief during the holidays

Keep love present when coping with grief during the holidays

Ask people how they feel about the holidays, and you’ll get a variety of reactions. It may be because, even when things are going well, the holidays can present additional demands that increase stress levels and anxiety. If you’ve recently suffered the loss of a loved one, that ordinary holiday stress can quickly turn into a complex, overwhelming, exhausting endurance race.

After a loved one dies, it automatically becomes a year of “firsts.” The first anniversary of every event no longer experienced or celebrated with the person who is now glaringly absent. What was once a reliable or comforting ritual may suddenly feel like an emotional roller coaster of unwelcome change. Grief triggers may be seemingly everywhere: old movies, familiar scents, a favorite song on a playlist. For many, the initial reaction is to avoid and distract. Although it’s a natural response, over time it becomes increasingly ineffective at moving through the grief.

Perhaps when coping with grief during the holidays, instead of connecting with friends, family and others to primarily distract from grief, consider a choice to deliberately “include” the loved one who is no longer present, with intention.

Christmas for Cielo, a special young hospice patient

Christmas for Cielo, a special young hospice patient

Santa visit cSince joining JourneyCare as a hospice volunteer this past year, I’ve had the privilege of serving as a care companion for two patients so far and I am thoroughly enjoying my role. So, when I saw a request for an “elf” to accompany Santa to bring an early Christmas to a pediatric hospice patient this October, I immediately wanted to help.

Cielo was 17 years old suffering from a glioblastoma with her condition advancing, so she wished for an early Christmas. I was honored to be selected as a helper elf to accompany Santa and bring some Christmas joy to Cielo and her family. 

Making the holidays brighter at Chanukkah

Making the holidays brighter at Chanukkah

For National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, JourneyCare is celebrating our thoughtful and caring staff and volunteers, who provide comfort and exceed expectations to make the holiday season joyful for our patients and their families.

As a Jewish Care Ambassador for JourneyCare, I’ve often thought of patients in our care during the holiday season and have felt badly that some of them, due to their advanced illnesses, are unable to enjoy the holidays to their fullest extent. This year as December begins, patients in our Jewish Care Services program will celebrate Chanukkah beginning the evening of Sunday, December 2 continuing through Sunday, December 9. Chanukkah is called the Festival of Lights, which is considered a joyous holiday and meant to remind us of the golden menorah in the time of the Temple with the miraculous jar of oil that lasted eight days.

Hospice garden volunteers: Making life beautiful

For National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, JourneyCare is celebrating the many innovative and creative ways our staff and volunteers help provide care, support and companionship to positively impact the lives of JourneyCare patients and their loved ones. Learn more at

If you ever run into people carrying mud-covered shovels at the front entrance of The Pepper Family Hospice CareCenter in Barrington, you’re seeing JourneyCare volunteer gardeners at work. We volunteers have designed and planted the front entrance of CareCenter for the past four years. We also arrange the patio planters and undertake several other creative garden projects that welcome patients and their loved ones to JourneyCare.

We are a team that tries to make things beautiful with plants. As members of The Garden Club of Barrington, all of us bring different strengths and contributions to our work at the CareCenter. Some of us are really good at design, others are skilled at finding donations, some are very knowledgeable about plants — and we all like to dig in the dirt. We also all have experience interacting with JourneyCare patients and enjoy visiting with families who stop by when we are working. Gardening seems to be a great connection for visitors to share stories about their loved ones.  

Honoring veterans in hospice care

For Veterans Day and National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, JourneyCare is honoring our veteran patients and celebrating the volunteers who dedicate their time and talents to our patients, patient families and the staff throughout our agency. We are so grateful for our generous volunteers every day of the year!

It’s estimated that one out of every four dying Americans is a veteran.

This Veterans Day and National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, JourneyCare is very proud to be one of more than 2,400 hospice organizations in the United States participating in the We Honor Veterans initiative to honor and care for veterans and their families. Started by the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) at the request of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the intent of the program is to identify when a veteran is enrolled in hospice care, connect veterans and their families with any benefits for which they may be eligible, and take this final opportunity to honor and thank those who served and sacrificed so much.

Hospice music: fine tuning the quality of life

Hospice music: fine tuning the quality of life

In honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, we are celebrating the hospice and healthcare workers who hold the hands and hearts of our patients and their families every day. In tribute to the physical, emotional and spiritual work they do, each blog this month will bring you an up close look at how they bring compassionate care to patients and families in extraordinary ways. We hope you will be inspired by these stories which shine the spotlight on these everyday heroes.

As a music therapist for hospice and palliative care patients, I feel incredibly grateful each day that I have the privilege to do this unique work. This November I reflect on National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, and realize I can honestly say that I absolutely love my job and the work that we do here at JourneyCare.

In my journey as a music therapist, I experience so many touching moments with our patients. But what makes my work especially worthwhile are the “WOW” or breathtaking moments. And sometimes, when I least expect it, a “nice” visit can become one of my best.

Tree of Lights…from both sides now

I look forward to our Tree of Lights celebrations every year. My personal experience with grief and loss has been eased by participating not only as a staff member, but a grieving person in my own right. Let me share a story with you ...

In the past 18 years, I have had the privilege of providing grief support to family members of hospice patients as well as members of the community at-large. Little did I know when I began my connection to JourneyCare as a volunteer over 20 years ago, I would become part of one of the most compassionate organizations that serves people at the most critical juncture in their lives. What was once a small agency now reaches across 10 counties in the Chicago region.

Being a Voice for Patients: Hospice Chaplains as Advocates

Being a Voice for Patients: Hospice Chaplains as Advocates

There are so many patients who have impacted my life, but I’m going to share this story for Pastoral Care Week (October 21-27). It’s an example of how chaplains are not only spiritual counselors for patients, but also serve as their advocates.

There was a cancer patient, an Irish man who was quite ill by the time he came into our hospice care. He lived alone in his home. He was in his 50s, and his wife had died of cancer two years prior. He had lung cancer and was still a smoker, so we could not bring oxygen into his home. He was becoming weaker and weaker, his house was in a disarray, and it was becoming unsafe to leave him in the home by himself.

Your Hospice Care Team: Soothing body, mind and spirit

Your Hospice Care Team: Soothing body, mind and spirit

For World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, Nurse Katie Fernandez explains the team-based approach care patients and their loved ones receive through hospice.

I have been working with hospice patients for 15 years. My role as a hospice nurse is tightly woven into the team I work with: physicians, other registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, social workers, chaplains and volunteers. We collaborate as we work together to manage the needs of those we care for. I am deeply grateful to work with committed professionals as we apply our strengths to soothe the physical, emotional and spiritual struggles that patients and families are dealing with.

Honoring Vietnam veterans in hospice care

As we observe the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, JourneyCare’s Veteran Volunteer Advisory Council and the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration invite Vietnam Era Veterans to join us for a special ceremony in recognition of their service and sacrifice for our nation on October 6. The event will feature a special keynote address from Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Allen J. Lynch.

My name is James “Jim” Claydon and I am a Vietnam Navy Seabee veteran. I served in Danang, Phu-Bai and Hue from 1967-1968, and was a Steelworker in support of the Third Marine Engineering Battalion.

jc-logo white