Features and Occasionals

Caring Connections

By Katherine Pioli

Healthcare professionals offer hope and comfort in grief program.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. — Romans 12:15

Twenty years ago, Dr. Beth Cole and Sherry Poulson started the University of Utah College of Nursing’s Caring Connections program to provide support through therapy, bereavement calls to families of patients who died in University Hospital and community education programs. Over the last two decades the program has grown exponentially and touched the lives of partners, parents, children and siblings, each year reaching out to more than 6,000 people.

This year Caring Connections received an important grant from Cambia Health Foundation and over the next two years the program will use the $127,659 award to develop and implement a telehealth grief support group.

While Utah has 93 licensed hospice agencies, over 90% of those are located in the Salt Lake valley and the metropolitan St. George area. Only eight hospice agencies serve rural communities. The grant will allow Caring Connections Program Director Katherine Supiano, PhD to begin using telehealth technology in partnership with three nonprofit hospice organizations to provide support.

Caring Connections grief support groups are eight weeks long and offered three times a year. The next sessions will begin in mid-January and will be held in three locations: the University of Utah College of Nursing, the Greenwood Health Center and the Parkway-Orem Health Center.

With the loss of a close family member or friend, Caring Connections acknowledges that it is often helpful to talk about the loss and have others with similar experiences listen. Several types of groups are offered for those grieving: a family member or friend, a spouse or partner, loss to suicide, murder or drug overdose, loss of a baby. Each group is led by health care professionals with degrees in social work, psychiatric nursing or professional counseling, with a fee of $50 (scholarships available).

For more information and to register: 801-585-9522. https://healthcare.utah.edu/caring-connections/

Tips on writing an obituary

“It’s counterintuitive, perhaps, but obituaries have next to nothing do with death and absolutely everything to do with life.”—Margalit Fox, New York Times obituary writer

The logistical concerns: Contact your local publication where you wish the obituary to appear. Ask for guidelines and prices.

Get started: Talk with relatives and friends to get a complete picture of the person or, if the person is alive, take time to sit down with them and sketch out an obituary together—the things your loved one considers worth mentioning about their life might not be things you would think of yourself.

Include basic background information: full name, date and location of birth/death, cause of death, schools attended, military service, survivors. But… avoid the resume obituary, don’t just make it a laundry list of accomplishments.

Tell who the person was, not just what they did. What brought them joy? What were their quirks?

Be revealing, honest and respectful.

Be true to the person you’re writing about. Were they a jokester with a great sense of humor?

Write about women as living their own lives (not their husband’s).

Make sure it’s accurate—now’s the time to fact-check those family myths!

Avoid using euphemisms for death — the deceased does not “go with God,” “follow Jesus home,” “cross the Rainbow Bridge” (unless it’s a dog or cat) or “pass away.”

And finally, some advice from obituary writer Catherine Garcia: “Don’t elaborate too much, remember that most well written obits are naturally interesting even without all the details.”

Obit the Film

Are you the kind of person who peruses the obituaries in the morning paper? The new documentary Obit: Life on Deadline (2017) might be up your alley. And if you don’t read obits, this film might spark a new fascination.

Obit, of course, doesn’t bother with the smalltime stuff of little local publications , it drops right into the powerhouse of the New York Times where a staff of obit writers past and present (including William McDonald, Bruce Weber, Margalit Fox, William Grimes, Douglas Martin and Paul Vitello) tends to the final words of the famous, infamous and not-so-famous-but-interesting. There’s the guy who invented the Slinky; an amateur tinkerer whose ingenuity saved 1970s U.S. space station Skylab; pioneering rocker Bill Haley’s bassist; a longterm Catskills resort maitre d’ famed for his matchmaking skills; Joseph Stalin’s only (acknowledged) daughter; and the man whom fate chose to drop the A-bomb on Hiroshima. Available on Amazon Prime.


This article was originally published on October 2, 2017.