Processing grief while retaining hope with The Dougy Center

By Regence
August 09, 2017

Grief can be a challenging process for anyone, but when a child is involved, it’s all the more important to get the conversation right.

Medical providers are often the first responders to grief, delivering difficult news and talking through what’s next. To help providers navigate these conversations, The Dougy Center, in partnership with Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, has produced a new video resource for providers to help them navigate the grief process with patients and their families “When Your Patient is Dying…Quality Care for Children and Families.”  

Many people are hesitant to include children when talking about serious illness and death, which might deny them time to understand what’s happening and make grieving a more difficult process. The video urges providers and parents to be honest with their children, giving them the opportunity to prepare for what’s ahead and provide an avenue for them to share their emotions.

The video also reiterates that grief is not a problem to be solved. Rather than trying to get rid of grief, providers can often offer the best support by simply being present in the moment. They can also give people permission to hold both grief and hope in the same space, whether it’s hope for a cure or simply hope for a peaceful transition at the end of a patient’s life.

At a screening of this video for providers, The Dougy Center Executive Director Brennan Wood shared her own personal experience of processing the death of a parent as a child and offered encouragement to providers, saying, “You are traversing the roughest terrain, and just being here shows your commitment to having these tough conversations.”

Dr. Nathalie Johnson, a physician featured in the video, shared her advice to other providers on approaching grieving with empathy. “We can still minister to the spirit, even when the medical is not fixable,” she said. “To care for a person, you have to see them as more than a disease.”

The Dougy Center offers a safe space for children, teens, young adults and their families to process grief. They do this through peer support groups, education, and training. Since its founding, The Dougy Center has served over 40,000 children, teens and their families in groups and has received national and international acclaim for their pioneering peer support model for helping children cope with the death of a family member.

To learn more about The Dougy Center and the services they offer, visit their website, or learn more about their new provider video resource which can also be used for a Grand Rounds presentation, “When Your Patient Is Dying…Quality Care for Children and Families.”