Hospital offers help to those who are grieving

Pam Umann

We all suffer major losses in life, which can result in unhappy
and painful emotions. Mourning or grieving can become
incapacitating, but help is available to residents of Gilroy,
Hollister and Morgan Hill who are dealing with loss.
We all suffer major losses in life, which can result in unhappy and painful emotions. Mourning or grieving can become incapacitating, but help is available to residents of Gilroy, Hollister and Morgan Hill who are dealing with loss.

A Bereavement Support Group meets every second and fourth Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Board Room at Saint Louise Regional Hospital, 9400 No Name Uno in Gilroy. There is no charge to attend, and no need to register in advance; it is operated on a drop-in basis: people attend when they feel the need to participate.

The program is facilitated by Pam Umann, a medical social worker with an master’s degree from UC Berkeley and experience at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View. She came to Saint Louise Regional Hospital 13 years ago and her special fields of study are death and dying, terminal illness and grief issues.

The program has existed at the hospital for several years, but sometimes all the participants have moved on and there is a hiatus; this particular group has been meeting since March. Although Umann takes a somewhat less-academic approach (no charting of the classic stages of grief, for example), she does recommend additional resources for those who may benefit from them.

Grief is a constant for humans, but Umann recognizes each person’s experience is personal.

“Everyone is in a different place in his or her grief; there is a wide range of normality,” she said.

The goal is to allow those who have reached more recovery to share their stories and give tips to those who are less far along that path. Participants share – as they feel comfortable – the hard parts and about when they have felt better and more hopeful. The group is a safe place where no one is told, “Get over it,” “Get on with your life” or “You should be past that by now.”

Although the Bereavement Support Group is sponsored by a Roman Catholic hospital, people of any religion (or none) are invited to attend. The wish is to “take care of everyone who comes through the door” and there is no pressure to accept any particular view of religion or spirituality.

Umann invites anyone in the community suffering grief from loss of a loved one to come and try the group.

“We’ll probably do you more good than sitting at the kitchen table alone and feeling sad,” she said.

She calls this opportunity “a great way to heal yourself and help others to heal, assisting someone to travel down the road you have already traveled.”

There is no requirement to return, but she does make personal phone calls to remind participants of the meetings. For more information, please call (408) 848-4907.

Umann has written a book with Jerry Griffin, an emergency room physician and hospice medical director, “The last day of winter: Secrets from the seasons of dying.” It focuses on barriers that exist among family members, caregivers and terminal patients, offering suggestions for support and telling stories of “triumph, isolation, fear and grief to help people face the last days of life.”

Saint Louise Regional Hospital opened in 1989 in Morgan Hill when the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul extended their healing mission into South Valley from San Jose’s O’Connor Hospital. It relocated to Gilroy 10 years later and now operates a 93-bed facility, including a 24-hour emergency medicine department with CALSTAR emergency helicopter transport.

As a community hospital, it offers many public services, including a Breast Cancer Support Group that meets every first and third Wednesday. Call facilitator Priti Zielinski at (408) 848-8608 for details. There are a wide range of Prenatal Classes for Empowered Parents available; to learn more, visit www.empoweredparents.org. Hospital physicians also offer a series of free lectures to the public dealing with important medical issues; call (408) 848-4940 to learn about the 2011 schedule.

Leave your comments