Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care https://www.seasons.org Honoring Life ~ Offering Hope to our Patients and Families Fri, 18 Dec 2020 23:57:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 https://www.seasons.org/stage/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/seasons_logo-90x90.png Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care https://www.seasons.org 32 32 Practical tips for being apart yet together during the holidays https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/12/18/holidayspracticaltips/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=holidayspracticaltips https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/12/18/holidayspracticaltips/#respond Fri, 18 Dec 2020 21:28:35 +0000 http://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/12/18/coping-during-the-holidays-and-a-pandemic-9-strategies-from-a-grief-bereavement-expert-copy/ In a normal year, the holidays can present challenges for those on hospice or who have recently lost a loved one. And 2020 has been anything but normal. COVID-19 has meant not being able to hug our loved ones, share family stories, participate in religious...

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In a normal year, the holidays can present challenges for those on hospice or who have recently lost a loved one. And 2020 has been anything but normal. COVID-19 has meant not being able to hug our loved ones, share family stories, participate in religious rituals, or simply spend time with friends. These restrictions might make it feel as though there will be no joy this season. However, this change can also represent an opportunity to create new ways to celebrate “together.”

When grieving or coming to terms with a hospice diagnosis during the holidays, it’s important to make a plan for how you will spend your time. Being intentional and planning can be a critical bulwark against depression, unhealthy grief, or sadness. Planning could take the form of doing something for yourself (retail therapy, anyone?). It could be as simple as taking a bubble bath, exercising, sleeping and eating well, reading a good book, or watching your favorite movie.

Instead of focusing on the disappointment of not being together, you can also consider starting a new tradition.

Cheap or free ways to virtually connect have been one of the silver linings of the pandemic. In a time where picking up a phone to call someone was becoming a hassle, video chatting has become a lifeline. There are many free platforms to connect “in-person,” to be together face-to-face or with a group of friends. So, whether our friends and family live down the street, in a nursing home or assisted living facility, or in another state or country we can be more intentional and connect with them virtually.

If you’re not sure how to plan this out, we’ve developed some tips and suggestions to help guide you. This year why not try:

  • Creating a family gratitude video or taking time as a family to share what each of you are thankful for this holiday season
  • Teach a family recipe and cook alongside each other, virtually, and while you prepare the food, take time to share family stories or memories and acknowledging those who may no longer be with you
  • Decorate cookies together and enjoy them with your favorite winter drink
  • Have a gingerbread house making contest and vote on a winner or make similar ornaments as a family together to commemorate 2020
  • Sing Christmas carols together and maybe invite an unexpected guest that you all sing to over Zoom

Holidays can also be a time of service. This year many people are suffering loss, hurting, or in need.

Even if you’re not able to get out of the house or contribute financially, there are ways that you can support your community remotely. By doing so, you’ll give yourself a sense of purpose and help out others in need- a win/win! Consider:

  • Contacting your local shelter or food bank to see how you can help. Many faith organizations also have projects and needs.
  • Reaching out to an assisted living or skilled nursing facility in your area and see if they would be interested in receiving homemade Christmas cards or children’s art to brighten their residents’ day
  • Reaching out to those living alone in your community over the holidays for a virtual coffee date or check in. Many local churches and community organizations have members that cannot leave the home, and will welcome volunteers to support these individuals virtually.

Ultimately, it’s critically important to remember that you are not alone. Seasons encourages you to reach out to a friend or family member because chances are, they are feeling the same way as you. You might just be the connection they need as well. Of course, you can always reach out to us at Seasons Hospice and our bereavement specialists will be happy to be a listening ear or provide resources to support you through the holidays.

This year has been difficult for everyone all and we want to acknowledge that this holiday season is going to look and feel different than previous years. With a little community and some planning we can harness and make the best of that difference, together.

Seasons has designed a free-to-use virtual ‘thinking of you’ card that allows you to craft a personal message of support and email to anyone you’d like. Click here to send a virtual card to a friend or loved one. 


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Coping During the Holidays and a Pandemic: 9 Strategies from A Grief & Bereavement Expert  https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/12/07/coping-during-the-holidays-and-a-pandemic-9-strategies-from-a-grief-bereavement-expert/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coping-during-the-holidays-and-a-pandemic-9-strategies-from-a-grief-bereavement-expert https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/12/07/coping-during-the-holidays-and-a-pandemic-9-strategies-from-a-grief-bereavement-expert/#respond Mon, 07 Dec 2020 23:20:11 +0000 http://www.seasons.org/?p=5691 The holidays are usually a time of joy and togetherness. We all know that even under normal circumstances this season can also be challenging. We also know that we are not living an ordinary year. The truth is we live in incredibly challenging times.  If you have read any of our posts during the COVID-19 pandemic, you have learned about compounded grief and stress. When we use...

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The holidays are usually a time of joy and togetherness. We all know that even under normal circumstances this season can also be challenging. We also know that we are not living an ordinary year. The truth is we live in incredibly challenging times. 

If you have read any of our posts during the COVID-19 pandemic, you have learned about compounded grief and stress. When we use the word compounded here, what we mean are all the losses and stressors that are piling on top of each other. Maybe we’ve lost a sense of overall safety, our health, our jobs, food security, our familial and religious rituals, our communities and social engagement, or even the loss of loved ones.  

Some of us carry our compounded loss and stress on our shoulders. In this case, we might feel depressed and debilitated by the heaviness weighing down on us. Others try to dodge grief and distress only for it to continually boomerang back to us. In this case, it is easy to feel intense exhaustion and frustration.  

There are very real things you can do to add joy and hope to this holiday season: 

  1. Grieve Intentionally: Grief is natural response to our losses, and grieving is part of our healing. The problem with compounded losses is that the grief is too overwhelming to process. To manage so many losses, we must grieve intentionally. Try to focus on only one or two of your losses over this holiday season. This will help you manage the wide range of emotions and thoughts that you might experience.  
  2. Plan and Over-Plan: We highly recommend following public health recommendations about gatherings and social distancingSo, it is critical to try to find safe ways to make plans. It is generally better to over-plan and cancel later than to under-plan and be left scrambling at the last minute. This is a way to prepare yourself for what you anticipate might be hardest. 
  3. Ask for Help: It’s okay to do things differently this year. It is okay to delegate responsibilities and ask for help. Sometimes people really want to help in any way they can, but they just may not know what to offer. By asking for help, you really are giving others a chance to support you; at the same time, you get some relief. 
  4. Break the Silence: You may find yourself in a common situation where people no longer talk about your loved one who is not there. Your friends and family may not want to upset you, when all you want is to talk about the person you miss so much. Make it okay for yourself and others to talk about your loss by saying their name and sharing stories. People in your life will take their cue from you. 
  5. Share Memories: Feel empowered to share stories, pictures, and memories whether that be on social media or during conversation. This is how we stay connected to people whom we have loved and lost.  
  6. Embrace the Bittersweet: Even if you are anticipating a difficult holiday season, try to seek pleasure in the things and relationships that are special and meaningful to you.  
  7. Use Rituals: Do what is familiar or create new rituals this year. You can invite others to be a part of them or participate in them alone, there is no wrong way to do this. 
  8. Focus on Impermanence: For some types of grief or pain, there is reason to be hopeful. The COVID-19 pandemic will end. There will be a future of togetherness and joy again. We will be able to gather again with our loved ones without masks and without social distancing. There will be some sense of normalcy. By focusing on the principle of impermanence, we can reflect on the reality that change is built in the fabric of our existence and when embraced can create beautiful moments for humanity. 
  9. Call Seasons: Seasons is here to offer hope and support during a time of profound change in your life. We have bereavement specialists who can help support you and connect you to resources that can help. If you would like more resources on grief, you can also visit the Seasons Patient & Family Information Hub for free on demand educational videos and articles by clicking here. 

We want to leave you with a parting sentiment. It is important to give ourselves grace in the face of seasonal pressureGrieving during the holidays is hard any year and grieving during the holidays during a pandemic is harder. In spite of the extraordinary challenges, our hope is that you can find meaning, connection, and peace during this holiday season.  


About the Author: Joshua Magariel, LCSW, is a National Director of Patient Experience at Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care. Josh specializes in grief and loss education and support as well as marriage and family therapy. Josh is a national presenter and author on creative applications of attachment theory in grief therapy. Josh earned his B.A. in Religious Studies at the University of Kansas and his MSW at the University of Denver. Josh has completed an AAMFT accredited Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy from the Denver Family Institute. Josh is a ten-year veteran of hospice having served in patient care, bereavement, leadership, and education.

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How to Support a Grieving Loved One via Text: According to a Grief and Bereavement Expert  https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/11/05/supportingviatext/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=supportingviatext https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/11/05/supportingviatext/#respond Thu, 05 Nov 2020 22:34:39 +0000 http://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/11/05/a-message-to-our-community-advancing-our-culture-of-equity-copy/ When someone we care about experiences the death of a loved one, we find ourselves faced with two difficult decisions:   What is the best way to share my condolences and offer support? And;   What exactly do I say? When we first learn that someone we care about has lost a loved...

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When someone we care about experiences the death of a loved one, we find ourselves faced with two difficult decisions:  
  1. What is the best way to share my condolences and offer support? And;  
  2. What exactly do I say?

When we first learn that someone we care about has lost a loved one, there is a natural impulse to want to offer comfort and support. We have countless methods to share our condolences and words of support – in person, by phone, email,  letter, social media, or by texting. Ultimately our relationship with the grieving individual will determine what we feel is the best way to reach out. Once we settle on the appropriate channel of communication, it’s normal to find ourselves confused about to say. Here we hope to offer some perspective and tips on how to offer grief support via text message.  

A few rules to consider 

  • Brief but sweet

When deciding what to say, it’s okay to keep your texts short. In fact, there are times when it’s highly recommended. Grief can be overwhelming, so a concise text might be all a person can process.  

  • Keep it simple

What matters most is that your words are said with care and concern. None of the phrases provided here are complicated. It’s the heart and intention that matter most. It’s acceptable to simply use the phrase, “I’m sorry for your loss” if it’s said with genuine care and concern. Remember, there are no words that can take away the pain of loss. There are, however, words that can help people feel less alone.  

  • Avoid euphemisms

Avoid using euphemisms like “Everything happens for a reason,” or “They are in a better place.” Unless you know that your grieving loved one believes these things to be true, hearing them can be exceptionally hurtful. Consider using the language provided here. 

Where to start?  

It can be hard to know where to begin. Below are some phrases that you can use to help get you started. Remember, keep it simple and speak from the heart. If any of these prompts speak to you then begin there and add your own words to make an authentic offer of comfort and support.  

“… I’m so sorry…” 
“…I heard about your (enter relationship: mom, dad, brother, sister, spouse, child. etc.)… 
“…I can’t imagine how you must be feeling right now…”  
“…I don’t have the words…”  
“…I know you’re busy being with family right now, you don’t have to reply…” 
“…Just know that I’m thinking of you and I’m here…”  
“…I’d really love to support you right now…” 
“…Please let me know what I can do big or small to help make your days easier…”  
“…Here for you…” 

Call Seasons 

If you need help right now, Seasons is here to offer hope and support during a time of profound change in your life. We have specialists who can help support you and connect you to resources that can help, and you can reach us at any time.  


About the Author: Joshua Magariel, LCSW, is a National Director of Patient Experience at Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care. Josh specializes in grief and loss education and support as well as marriage and family therapy. Josh is a national presenter and author on creative applications of attachment theory in grief therapy. Josh earned his B.A. in Religious Studies at the University of Kansas and his MSW at the University of Denver. Josh has completed an AAMFT accredited Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy from the Denver Family Institute. Josh is a ten-year veteran of hospice having served in patient care, bereavement, leadership, and education.

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A Message to Our Community: Advancing Our Culture of Equity https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/08/18/a-message-to-our-community-advancing-our-culture-of-equity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-message-to-our-community-advancing-our-culture-of-equity https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/08/18/a-message-to-our-community-advancing-our-culture-of-equity/#respond Tue, 18 Aug 2020 23:06:32 +0000 https://www.seasons.org/?p=5419 A message from Annemarie Switchulis, RN, BSN, MSN, President and COO of Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care.  As an organization, Seasons has had a longstanding commitment to advancing an internal culture of equity as well as in the communities we have the honor of serving....

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A message from Annemarie Switchulis, RN, BSN, MSN, President and COO of Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care. 

As an organization, Seasons has had a longstanding commitment to advancing an internal culture of equity as well as in the communities we have the honor of serving. We strongly reaffirmed this commitment earlier this summer in response to the unrest and protests spurred by Mr. Floyd’s death. We wanted to take a moment to update our community partners on the internal work we have been undertaking since our affirmation. It has been a busy and productive time, though there is always more work to do. 

First, in order to ensure we hear from a wide and diverse set of voices within our organization, we convened a new Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Action (I.D.E.A.) Committee. The I.D.E.A. Committee is a subset of our Employee Council- a group of our valued frontline staff who provide guidance to our senior leadership about work and company culture here at Seasons. The I.D.E.A. Committee will focus on supporting the cultural needs of our employees. They will provide feedback and suggestions, and serve as a workgroup for how to create an equitable and diverse environment at all levels of our organization. 

Secondly, In 2018, Seasons chartered our Cultural Inclusion Council. To better support our robust internal clinical education training and orientation, as well as our community education programming, our Cultural Inclusion Council will now focus on identifying relevant topics for future instructional development for employees, as well as education opportunities for underserved communities and our facility partners with the goal of increasing access to hospice care. 

Additionally, Seasons believes in giving our staff the resources they need in ways that are easy for them to utilize. Under the guidance of our National Director of Communications and Multicultural Affairs and our national faculty, we have created a robust internal library of on demand educational offerings for all employees that focus on key topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This library consists of both external resources as well as Seasons Hospice proprietary content developed by our own subject matter experts with a focus on the role that diversity, equity and inclusion must play in high-quality end of life care. Our staff have access to such relevant topics such as active listening, respectfully unearthing identity, and inclusion and sensitivity. This content will also be released via video vignettes on a monthly basis to all employees with the goal of advancing our understanding as we support each other and our diverse patient populations. 

Lastly, Seasons is proud of our strategic focus- we take a long view and aim to be able to serve our communities for the next five, ten, and fifty years. We honor and recognize that a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program won’t be built in a month, or even a year. Because we are dedicated to promoting this culture for decades to come, we’re working to continue laying a solid foundation today. We are finalizing plans to engage a diversity and inclusion consulting firm that supports leaders and organizations through the process of developing transformative, sustainable solutions for equity and inclusion.  

I’m proud of what’s been accomplished so far, but also know there is more work to be done. As a mission-driven organization, Seasons knows that creating an organization that can provide the best possible hospice care starts with a respectful understanding of the backgrounds and traditions of those we serve. And we cannot continue that process without fully supporting our staff and providing them an equitable environment where all can thrive and bring their best and fullest selves to the critical work we commit to each day. 

With humility and respect, 

Annemarie Switchulis RN, BSN, MSN 
President and Chief Operating Officer 
Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care 

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Broken Heart Syndrome on the Rise During Pandemic: A Conversation with Dr. Balu Natarajan, MD & Joshua Magariel, LCSW https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/07/31/broken-heart-syndrome-on-the-rise-during-pandemic-a-conversation-with-dr-balu-natarajan-md-joshua-magariel-lcsw/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=broken-heart-syndrome-on-the-rise-during-pandemic-a-conversation-with-dr-balu-natarajan-md-joshua-magariel-lcsw Fri, 31 Jul 2020 20:28:00 +0000 https://www.seasons.org/?p=5380 Over the last two weeks, news outlets from across the country have been posting a similar headline: “Broken Heart Syndrome on the Rise During Pandemic.” The journal JAMA Network Open published findings from the Cleveland Clinic that during the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a...

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Over the last two weeks, news outlets from across the country have been posting a similar headline: “Broken Heart Syndrome on the Rise During Pandemic.” The journal JAMA Network Open published findings from the Cleveland Clinic that during the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a significant increase in patients diagnosed with stress cardiomyopathy, reaching 7.8% compared with pre-pandemic incidence of 1.7%, the release states. 

We sat down with Seasons Chief Medical Officer Dr. Balu Natarajan, MD, and National Director of Patient Experience Joshua Magariel, LCSW, to learn more about broken heart syndrome, stress cardiomyopathy, and how Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care is creatively responding to the unique needs in our communities.  

What was your first reaction to hearing this news? 

Dr. Natarajan: I’m grateful that strong institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic are taking the time to study and highlight this phenomenon.  What’s particularly important to appreciate are the study authors’ references to contributors, such economic and emotional issues, societal problems and potential loneliness and isolation. 

Joshua Magariel, LSCW: I first learned the news from my wife who heard it on a popular radio show here in Chicago. I’m always excited when psychology and science make it to the level of general conversation. I’m very familiar with broken heart syndrome, or stress cardiomyopathy, in my work. The reality is that this is a very real phenomenon with significant emotional and physical health risks. To say the least, I’m glad we’re having this discussion.  

What’s your experience with broken heart syndrome? 

Dr. Natarajan: I’ve actually seen this among a few relatively young athletes I’ve taken care of in the past. These are folks who are able to achieve a lot and are incredibly fit, but an intense period of stress overwhelms their physical being, including their heart.  Eventually, their heart fails. 

Joshua Magariel, LSCW: I remember hearing my mother say that my Grandpa Pat died of a “broken heart.” He died unexpectedly about six months after the death of my Grandma Aggie who had died just days before their 50th wedding anniversary. With time and curiosity, I learned the difference between heartbreak and stress cardiomyopathy that is born out of significant loss. Looking back, I still believe that my Grandpa Pat died from the emotional pain and stress of having lost the love of his life.  

How do you understand broken heart syndrome? 

Dr. Natarajan: Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or Broken Heart Syndrome is a weakening of the heart’s main pumping chamber, caused by severe emotional or physical stress.  The stressor could include an unexpected illness, the loss of a loved one, a serious accident, or even a natural disaster such as a hurricane.  Financial loss and intense fear can be major stressors as well. What’s amazing is that in most affected individuals, their coronary arteries reveal no significant plaque buildup. The main symptoms are chest pain and difficulty breathing. 

Joshua Magariel, LSCW: I think Dr. Natarajan’s explanation is helpful to our discussion. We need to understand that emotional stress can cause dysfunction or failure in the heart muscle. To build on that, we know that caring for a loved one with advanced illness is physically and emotionally stressful. We also know that the loss of a loved one is physically and emotionally stressful and painful. One of the reasons Seasons is so important in our communities is our role in supporting patients and families living with advanced illness and loss.   

What are some ways we can reduce some of the isolation and increase emotionally connection during this unprecedented time? 

Dr. Natarajan: Human beings need other human beings, with rare exception.  We have to find creative ways to communicate with one another, be it via video, telephone, or even through the exchange of handwritten letters!  Anything we can do creatively to make contact with those close to us will help remind us that we’re not alone.  Each contact helps reduce that intense fear and social isolation. 

Joshua Magariel, LSCW: Building on Dr. Natarajan’s response, I want to highlight two areas of focus for us to help decrease a sense of isolation. The first is to increase your formal support systems (faith communities, mental health counselors, etc.). Meeting with a therapist or counselor regularly can decrease our feelings of isolation and increase a general sense of emotional connection in our lives.  

The second area of focus is to create what’s called an “enduring sense of connection” to those we’ve loved and lost. We’ve learned that while death means our loved ones are no longer physically here, the love that we feel for them continues to live in our hearts. Seasons helps patients and families create an enduring sense of connection through our Legacy and bereavement programming.  

How do you suggest for folks who might be concerned about themselves or someone in their life? 

Dr. Natarajan: See your healthcare provider for help!  In rare cases, medication may be needed. Invest in self-care, which might mean taking a walk, exercise, or meditation.   Think hard about ways to manage stress.  If working for 12 hours straight at a computer increases your stress levels, then make sure you have enough breaks to refuel during those 12 hours! 

Joshua Magariel, LSCW: The general advice is to ask for help and find support. Whether your needs are financial, medical, or emotional there are formal and informal support systems out there to help you. At Seasons we support patients and caregivers who are faced with the challenges of living with advanced illness and loss. Seasons has Patient & Family Resources on our website. There you will find free on-demand educational videos and articles. 

What do you say to those who might be avoiding doctors’ offices or hospitals because of the pandemic? 

Dr. Natarajan: I cannot tell you how many people in my private practice just assumed we’d be closed. They suffered with shoulder pain and knee pain for 3 months, instead of calling! And they’re not even chronically ill.  Not only will people staying away from doctors be reflected in Broken Heart syndrome, it will be a disaster for those with Organic Heart syndrome!! 

Joshua Magariel, LSCW: Your physical and emotional health are very important, and you are more at risk for bad health outcomes by not going to a doctor or seeing a therapist. Doctors and hospitals have worked very hard since the pandemic started to ensure you will be safe. Please seek help if you are experiencing any of the symptoms connected with stress cardiomyopathy.  

Dr. Balu Natarajan is the Chief Medical Officer and Joshua Magariel, LCSW, is the National Director of Patient Experience with Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care.  

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Processing Change as a Caregiver During COVID-19 https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/07/07/processingchange/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=processingchange https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/07/07/processingchange/#respond Tue, 07 Jul 2020 21:28:17 +0000 https://www.seasons.org/2020/07/reflection-copy/ Change is difficult, and it seems to be the only constant these days. At Seasons, we understand the value of self-care and respite for the family caregivers we support. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many caregivers are experiencing increased amounts of pressure, fear, exhaustion, isolation and...

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Change is difficult, and it seems to be the only constant these days. At Seasons, we understand the value of self-care and respite for the family caregivers we support.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many caregivers are experiencing increased amounts of pressure, fear, exhaustion, isolation and ongoing emotional trauma. If you are caring for a loved one, this ongoing stress and trauma can have an impact on one’s mental health, safety, and ability to provide the best possible care. Taking steps to manage your stress is just as important as taking care of your physical health.

It’s important to note processing can mean sharing concerns, identifying needs, and venting about the hard stuff.

Processing the fear and worry about your health and the health of your loved ones is key.

Everyone reacts uniquely to stressful situations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlight that fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in both adults and children and can result in significant stress. Caregivers are having to be hypervigilant while navigating prolonged periods of exhausting worry, all while being disconnected from social circles and systems. They are one of the hardest-hit groups by this pandemic as they navigate being impacted on the head, heart, and home fronts. from social circles and systems. They are one of the hardest-hit groups by this pandemic as they navigate being impacted on the head, heart, and home fronts.

We need to use each other now more than ever. Whether it be with friends, neighbors, or colleagues, we need to connect.

Even if this connection happens virtually or at a distance it can help to process all that we’re experiencing. We hope that you find comfort in lyrics from Disney’s latest hit – Frozen 2. A song that emphasizes great love between two friends and how even amidst a pandemic, some things never change. For now, let’s hold tight to that.

Some things never change
Like the feel of your hand in mine
Some things stay the same
Like how we get along just fine
Like an old stone wall that will never fall
Some things are always true
Some things never change
Like how I’m holding on tight to you

Below are some tips from the CDC for processing change as a caregiver during the time of COVID-19:

  • Take breaks from consuming media
  • Connect with others and open up to people you trust about how you are feeling
  • Practice self-care, mindful breathing, stretching, or meditation
  • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals
  • Exercise as much as you’re able and get adequate sleep
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Make time to unwind and activities such as listening to music, journaling, or crafting

Coping with stress and acknowledging the changes that have been brought about by coronavirus will help to make you and the people you care for stronger. We’re here to support you if you have questions or need someone to talk to.

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A Personal Reflection on Injustice, Fear, and Hope https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/06/01/reflection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reflection https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/06/01/reflection/#respond Mon, 01 Jun 2020 14:58:39 +0000 https://www.seasons.org/2020/06/covidgrieving-copy/ Fear is an interesting and powerful emotion. It can prevent us from doing something dangerous, acting as that sixth sense that helps us to make good decisions. But it can also prevent us from living up to our potential and fulfilling our responsibilities as human...

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Fear is an interesting and powerful emotion. It can prevent us from doing something dangerous, acting as that sixth sense that helps us to make good decisions. But it can also prevent us from living up to our potential and fulfilling our responsibilities as human beings. Fear can drive many into positive action (think of the famous Mr. Rogers quote “look for the helpers”), while others may unfortunately be driven to negatively act outside of their usual character. Recent examples of xenophobia during COVID-19, economic challenges faced by many who were already experiencing financial instability and food insecurity, and most recently, #BirdWatchingWhileBlack, are bringing to light opportunities for us to turn our fears into growth as a community and more importantly growth as members of the human race.

We hit an unfortunate milestone recently—over 100,000 United States citizens have died from COVID-19. While not every state has chosen to track the demographics of their coronavirus-positive patients, the statistics we do have show that it has disproportionately affected and killed people of color. Let me be clear, COVID-19 has impacted everyone in some capacity. But we must acknowledge that the minority experience and concerns during the coronavirus outbreak cannot be compared to those who do not identify as such.

As a woman of color, it pains me to hear stories of verbal assault on members of our Asian American community.

It pains me to know that the pre-existing health conditions that are common in the Black community puts my loved ones at a higher risk.

It pains me to worry that my beautiful, trans sister would be pre-judged and not receive high quality care if needed.

It pains me to admit that when my husband goes out for a jog at night, my heart rate spikes until he returns home safely.

Finding a healthy way to discuss and process our thoughts and feelings is something that we all must learn to do—both during COVID-19 and after. This pandemic is a slow-moving trauma. Every single one of us is living through a global pandemic and the long-term effects won’t fully be understood for decades. Yes, it can be uncomfortable discussing the systemic injustices that our colleagues, neighbors, and friends experience. But being complacent or ignoring the issues facing so many does not mean they don’t exist. We have to become comfortable with having uncomfortable dialogues in order to prosper. If you’re reading this, you are in a position to be a part of the solution. If we all learn to first seek the good in each other instead of assuming the worst, we could unite behind that vision and  be unstoppable as a community.

I’ve been privileged to work in the hospice and palliative care community for the past four years. It has been an honor to contribute to the very personal and loving end of life experience of our patients as well as their families of choice during bereavement. Working for an organization with a mission, vision, and values that coincide with my own has been affirming and inspiring. Trust, Responsiveness, Understanding, Empowerment, Humility, Ownership, Passion, and Excellence—this is what you are committing to as a member of Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care. Our work is an honor and I am appreciative that the hospice space is designed to ensure that every person receives the care and support that is needed. Most hospice patients are Medicare recipients, which is built on a promise of caring for all elderly Americans equally, removing a barrier that at times can impact the quality of care for patients throughout the country. As an organization, our Cultural Inclusion Council has been in place for the past two years with the goals of educating our staff on providing culturally sensitive care with humility, educating the community about hospice care, and ensuring development and staffing opportunities for anyone interested in a rewarding career in hospice.

Dr. Robert Anthony once said, “The angry people are those people who are most afraid.”

But fear is developed over time, we aren’t born with it. What’s natural from the time of birth is love. Operating in love, disposing of one’s own ego, embracing humanity, and seeking to understand—that is who we are at our core. Love is responsible for feelings of happiness, empathy, certainty, honor, belonging, and acceptance. Love is what we all seek from the moment we’re born until the moment we die.

It may be hard to pinpoint what you can do when injustices occur, but take one step at a time—acknowledge the reality of what is happening without diminishing feelings of those affected, listen without ego, be open to perspectives that differ from your own, selflessly seek to understand the hurt and exhaustion felt by people of color, and start from a place of love.

About the Author: Nicole McCann-Davis is the National Director of Communications and Multicultural Affairs for Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care. Since joining Seasons in 2016, Nicole has helped to further develop Seasons’ cultural inclusion efforts and education for staff and the many communities we serve. Prior to joining Seasons, Nicole worked in the television production industry before joining McDonald’s Corporation in an internal communications role. Nicole was first introduced to hospice as a volunteer. Nicole earned her Bachelor of Science from Columbia College Chicago, and her Master of Communications from Northwestern University. She currently serves as a board member of the Seasons Hospice Foundation, and holds a Certificate in Diversity and Inclusion Leadership from Cornell University. Nicole McCann-Davis is a resident of Oak Park, IL, and is a wife and mother of two beautiful, though active, girls.

 

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Coping with COVID: Strategies for Grieving  https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/05/28/covidgrieving/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=covidgrieving https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/05/28/covidgrieving/#respond Thu, 28 May 2020 15:38:15 +0000 https://www.seasons.org/2020/05/paths-of-change-copy/ Processing the death of a loved one is difficult no matter the circumstances. However, there are real reasons why grieving can be harder now due to the Covid-19 pandemic: Some of us have lost multiple family members, friends, or community members within a short period...

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Processing the death of a loved one is difficult no matter the circumstances. However, there are real reasons why grieving can be harder now due to the Covid-19 pandemic:

  1. Some of us have lost multiple family members, friends, or community members within a short period of time
  2. We are unable to visit our loved ones in their last moments of life
  3. It’s more challenging now than ever to have important life-closure conversations
  4. Rituals of living and dying are being canceled and postponed
  5. There is not the same level of support for those who are grieving

While grieving has additional challenges right now, there are reasons to be hopeful and steps you can take to help you grieve and manage the wide range of changes in your life.

Don’t Fight Grief and Don’t Hold onto It 

The pain of loving and losing is universal and normal. Grief can often feel like waves washing over you. Sometimes these waves happen gradually with meaningful reminders of our loved one who died, or they can happen suddenly and unexpectedly. If we try to fight these waves, grief will always find a way to keep showing up. Conversely, if we try to hold onto them grief can keep us from moving forward with life. To grieve well, we must allow ourselves to feel the pain of loving and losing, but also must learn to let it go when we’re ready.

Tell the Story 

Research has demonstrated repeatedly that telling the story of how your loved one died can be healing. This might seem counter-intuitive when the thought of sharing this story seems so painful. However, telling their story jump-starts what Dr. Dan Gilbert calls your “psychological immune system.” You can share this story with one of your Listeners (see below), a support group, or even write it down.

Utilizing Rituals as Critical Stepping Stones

Rituals of living and dying help us emotionally, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. These rituals are being put on hold or canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and consequently we’re missing out on a critical stepping stone in our adjustment to loss. However, creating new rituals  is still possible and more practical than you might realize. This can be as simple as lighting a remembrance candle or creating a memorial in your home by placing an important photo and memento in a special place. These rituals do not need to be elaborate to be helpful.

Use Your People Well

Divide the people in your life into three categories: 1) Those who Listen; 2) Those who Do; 3) Those who provide Respite. You can write them down or just think about who fits in which category. Your Listeners are those people in your life who listen well and can attend to your pain in a caring way. Your Doers are those who will do anything for you – any favor, errand, or task that you need. Your Respite folks are those who you can laugh with and take a break with. When we really think about it, we need all three of these kinds of people. The hard part is using them well. You don’t want to call a Respite person when you need a Listener and you don’t call a Listener when you need a Doer.

Love Lives On

A question we often hear is “What do I do with the love I still feel in my heart?” We’ve learned that while death means our loved ones are no longer physically here, the love that we feel for them continues to live in our hearts. While we might talk about life-closure, we no longer talk about relationship-closure. Instead, we might say that closure is for bank accounts, not for love accounts. Learning how to maintain an enduring sense of connection with our deceased loved one is often a necessary step on the path toward healing.

Open the Door to a Hopeful Future 

It can be hard to talk about hope when we’re experiencing so much pain. One thing we know is while grief doesn’t always go away it will become more manageable with time. In time and with good self-care, we grow to find new meaning, purpose, acceptance, peace, and growth.

Call Seasons

Seasons is here to offer hope and support during a time of profound change in your life. We have bereavement specialists who can help support you and connect you to resources that can help. At your convenience you can visit the Seasons Patient & Family Information Hub for free on demand educational videos and articles by clicking here.

About the Author: Joshua Magariel, LCSW, is a National Director of Patient Experience at Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care. Josh specializes in grief and loss education and support as well as marriage and family therapy. Josh is a national presenter and author on creative applications of attachment theory in grief therapy. Josh earned his B.A. in Religious Studies at the University of Kansas and his MSW at the University of Denver. Josh has completed an AAMFT accredited Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy from the Denver Family Institute. Josh is a ten-year veteran of hospice having served in patient care, bereavement, leadership, and education.

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Death in the Digital Age: How to Memorialize Your Facebook Account https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/04/30/deathinthedigitalage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=deathinthedigitalage https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/04/30/deathinthedigitalage/#respond Thu, 30 Apr 2020 21:59:09 +0000 https://www.seasons.org/2020/04/paths-of-change-copy/ What happens to your Facebook account when you die? Facebook is now allowing its users to set up legacy contacts before dying so that your Facebook can be memorialized and run by a trusted loved one. Memorializing your Facebook is a great option for people...

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What happens to your Facebook account when you die? Facebook is now allowing its users to set up legacy contacts before dying so that your Facebook can be memorialized and run by a trusted loved one. Memorializing your Facebook is a great option for people who want their family to keep access to shared memories and photos. In this article, you’ll learn how to proactively designate a legacy contact and also how to request to memorialize someone’s Facebook account after they’ve died.

How to designate a legacy contact

A legacy contact is someone you choose to manage your account once it’s been memorialized. Legacy contacts can post a pinned post at the top of the deceased user’s Timeline, respond to new friend requests, and update the person’s profile picture and cover photo. Legacy Contacts can’t log into the account, see private information like messages, and remove the user’s past photos, posts, or friends. To choose a legacy contact:

  1. Open up your Facebook account and go to Settings > Memorialization Settings > Your Legacy Contact.
  2. Click Edit, and type in your legacy contacts name, and click Add.

Once you’ve chosen a legacy contact, you’ll see the option to allow them to download a copy of your Facebook account under Data Archive Permission. To allow your legacy contact to do this, click the checkbox and click Close.

If you don’t choose a legacy contact before you die, nobody will be able to manage your Facebook account but can still memorialize it.

How to memorialize someone’s account after they’ve died

A memorialized account will have the word “Remembering” in front of the person’s name, and won’t show up in Facebook ads, “People You May Know,” or send out reminders on the person’s birthday. Memorialized accounts can’t be logged into, preventing the account from getting hacked. If your friend has died without first setting up a legacy contact, you can request that Facebook memorialize their account by using this form. For the request to be considered you will need to provide:

  1. The person’s full name
  2. Date of death
  3. Proof of death (i.e. link to an obituary, death certificate)

If you’re an immediate family member, Facebook also gives you the option to request that the account be deleted instead of memorialized by using this form. You’ll need to provide:

  1. The person’s full name
  2. Email address
  3. Date of death
  4. URL of their timeline
  5. Proof of death (ie. link to an obituary, death certificate)

Your Facebook account is a part of your online legacy and how you choose to be remembered is up to you. If you choose to memorialize a Facebook account, it may give you peace of mind to create a space for those in your social network so that they have an easier time staying in touch, keeping the memory alive and leaning on one another when needing bereavement support. Choosing to delete your account or a loved one’s instead are also valid alternatives. Understanding your options proactively is the most important step when preparing for death.

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Coping with COVID: Learning To Walk The Parallel Paths of Change https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/04/17/paths-of-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=paths-of-change https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/04/17/paths-of-change/#respond Fri, 17 Apr 2020 20:09:58 +0000 https://www.seasons.org/2020/04/coronavirus-copy/ It can be overwhelming to look back on the last month or so and think about how much our lives have changed. During this COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves enduring countless changes as a result of this slow-moving crisis. This has become a time marked...

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It can be overwhelming to look back on the last month or so and think about how much our lives have changed. During this COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves enduring countless changes as a result of this slow-moving crisis. This has become a time marked by stress, anxiety, fear, adjustment, sadness, grief, pain, courage, and hope for so many.

The challenge for all of us is how we manage these drastic changes. A powerful lesson we’ve learned in hospice is how to endure significant changes and losses. We’ve learned that to cope meaningfully with change we must both “grieve our losses” and “restore a feeling of well-being.” In other words, our task is to learn to walk the Parallel Paths of Change:  Path 1: Grieving our Losses and Path 2: Restoring Well-Being.

Path 1: Grieving Our Losses

We know we’re on this path when we’re grieving and longing for the way life used to be. Another indicator we’re on this path is when we think about meaningful memories and the joys and comforts of the past. We may also have strong feelings of sadness, loneliness, and pain.

To walk this path takes courage, patience, and compassion.

Path 2: Restoring Well-Being

We know we’re on this path when we’re learning to live life in a new way. Some call this the “new normal.”  On this path we often feel like we’re struggling to manage so many real changes.

To walk this path takes grit, resilience, and hope.

Where do these paths lead?

To effectively manage change we must spend considerable time walking these parallel paths. Thankfully, both paths lead to the same destination.  At first, the only sign that we’re on the right track are those brief moments when we can finally take a deep breath without feeling overwhelmed by either grief or stress. As our hope builds, we’ve grieved losses, and restored a sense of well-being, a stronger feeling will emerge. We all have different words to describe what it feels like when we get there. Some of us might describe this feeling as “a newfound meaning,” “growth,” “acceptance” or “peace.”

Be gentle and compassionate with yourself as you weave through both paths. We will get through this, together.

 

Content adapted from: Dual Process Model by Stroebe & Schut (1999) 

About the Author: Joshua Magariel, LCSW, is a National Director of Patient Experience at Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care. Josh specializes in grief and loss education and support as well as marriage and family therapy. Josh is a national presenter and author on creative applications of attachment theory in grief therapy. Josh earned his B.A. in Religious Studies at the University of Kansas and his MSW at the University of Denver. Josh has completed an AAMFT accredited Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy from the Denver Family Institute. Josh is a ten-year veteran of hospice having served in patient care, bereavement, leadership, and education.

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Coronavirus: Keeping Our Communities Safe https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/03/23/coronavirus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coronavirus https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/03/23/coronavirus/#respond Mon, 23 Mar 2020 16:55:55 +0000 https://www.seasons.org/2020/03/digitalage-copy/ A message from Annemarie Switchulis, RN, BSN, MSN, President and COO of Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care  As the coronavirus pandemic continues to expand across the United States, Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care is committed to serving our patients, keeping our communities safe, and protecting...

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A message from Annemarie Switchulis, RN, BSN, MSN, President and COO of Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care 

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to expand across the United States, Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care is committed to serving our patients, keeping our communities safe, and protecting our staff. The COVID-19 outbreak is an unprecedented event, and it requires the full attention of all healthcare providers to ensure we are all doing our part to limit the spread of the virus and properly care for patients in a responsible way. Seasons is working tirelessly to ensure our staff have everything they need to continue providing care while limiting the spread of the virus. We are following all Centers for Disease Control and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidelines for COVID-19, as well as working closely with all local and state departments of health.  

Hospice services couldn’t be more important than in the current moment. Coming to terms with a life-limiting illness can be difficult under the best of circumstances. Against the background of coronavirus our patients need our social, spiritual, and medical support more than ever. The holistic approach of hospice can help soothe the hopes, fears, and stressors that coronavirus may add to the end of life. 

Hospice is also here to support all our partners across the health care continuum. As the need for our health system to respond to COVID-19 increases, Seasons stands ready to help keep patients out of acute care settings and comfortable at home. 

Serving our patients: 

Seasons is committed to responsibly providing the same high-quality hospice care for which we have been known for over 23 years. As national experts in hospice and palliative care we know that even in the midst of the current outbreak, patients and families still need the support and comfort hospice offers, perhaps more so now than ever. We are providing hospice services to the 29 communities we have the honor of serving, while finding creative solutions to ensure we do so safely in light of the coronavirus. If you have a loved one or patient who may be ready for hospice care, you can reach out to our team of experts 24/7. 

Hospices are a critical part of the health system in the U.S. and have the singular expertise in supporting patients suffering from terminal illness that will be critical in the weeks and months ahead. Our interdisciplinary care teams can not only provide pain and symptom management, but also psychosocial and spiritual counseling that can alleviate symptoms of social distancing or isolation. Our patient experience teams and volunteers are here to provide much-needed companionship and check-ins on our patients and their families that will be crucial to their well-being in situations where distancing may not allow patients to participate in social activities. 

Eligible patients cannot wait for the coronavirus outbreak to be over to receive hospice care. Those suffering from a terminal diagnosis deserve the person-centered care that hospice is known for, without delay wherever possible. Seasons commits to responsibly providing care throughout the coronavirus outbreak. 

Keeping our communities safe: 

Hospice services are provided by an amazing interdisciplinary team of professionals that travel to each patient to care for them, wherever that patient calls home. We bring our pain management, counseling, medical equipment, and care to those that need it. And in this time of concern, Seasons takes our commitment to infection control and prevention seriously. Our teams of community-based hospice and palliative care professionals live and work in some of the areas most affected by the coronavirus and we are doing our part to limit the spread of the virus. Internally and externally, Seasons is working to be a part of the response to COVID-19 by: 

  • Following all CDC and CMS guidelines for preventing the spread of the coronavirus for some of our most vulnerable populations; 
  • Providing extensive training and constant communication updates to our staff at all levels around infection control and proper personal protective equipment (PPE) technique; 
  • Creating a national coronavirus internal response group coordinating best practice and responding to staff questions and concerns around the clock; 
  • Offering free webinars and continuing education to our community partners on care of hospice patients in light of the coronavirus outbreak, taught by national subject matter experts, and; 
  • Coordinating our efforts with local and state departments of health and emergency services. 

Protecting our staff: 

Our vision statement directs us in part to ‘…support our staff so that they can put patients and families first.’ We cannot deliver the excellent care hospice is known for unless we are providing our employees with the tools and education they need to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, and Seasons is committed to doing exactly that. 

Our clinical logistics and operations teams are working around the clock on ensuring our staff have the training and PPE to provide excellent and safe hospice care, while keeping employees healthy and lowering risk of infection in the communities we serve. Staff are receiving daily updates on best practices in infection control, and we have built a comprehensive internal hub with up-to-date information on COVID-19. 

Seasons staff also have access to a robust employee assistance program that provides resources and free counseling sessions. Additionally, our Employee Council, which is made up of front-line staff members from every site across our organization, is having weekly calls with our national executive leadership to provide a direct conduit for sharing of information so we can address concerns and solve problems in real time. suggest:  We are also working to leverage technology so staff can work remotely where possible and connecting patients with their families via video chat services to help limit contact. 

Our commitment: 

Seasons will strive to continue to serve patients, their families, and our staff according to our company mission, vision, and values. As the coronavirus situation evolves, we will do everything in our power to continue to provide high quality patient centered hospice care to those who need it, while keeping patients, families, our staff, and our communities safe.  

Annemarie Switchulis RN, BSN, MSN
President and Chief Operating Officer
Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care 

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Social Media Etiquette for Announcing a Death in the Digital Age https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/02/18/digitalage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=digitalage https://www.seasons.org/blog/2020/02/18/digitalage/#respond Tue, 18 Feb 2020 21:41:02 +0000 https://www.seasons.org/2020/02/china-copy/ Death in the digital age can come with a lot of uncertainty. Most people are overwhelmed with the responsibility of announcing and mourning a death on social media, and trying to figure out all the unwritten social norms and etiquette. When someone has just experienced...

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Death in the digital age can come with a lot of uncertainty. Most people are overwhelmed with the responsibility of announcing and mourning a death on social media, and trying to figure out all the unwritten social norms and etiquette. When someone has just experienced the death of a loved one, crafting a perfectly worded status announcing that loss might be the last thing on their mind. In this blog we’ve outlined practices to avoid when announcing or reacting to a death on social media and have provided three status templates for you to use when announcing a death.

Don’t share the news before the core family

It is customary for close family members to be the first to announce the death publicly. Sharing the news yourself can be considered bad etiquette. Once the direct family has shared the news then you are free to begin sharing your condolences.

Don’t use another communication method to contact the family if the announcement was made on social media

It’s best to respect their privacy and limit all messages to the social media platform on which the announcement was posted. Flooding a newly grieving person with text messages or calls after reading their status on social media not only overwhelms the person but may be more than they can handle at that time.

Don’t ask questions publicly

It’s okay to leave your condolences on death announcement statuses but it’s best to leave any questions for a later time. Send a message rather than publicly posting comments that are personal and lengthy. The family will read and respond to them when they have a chance and feel ready to do so.

Status Templates:

  • It is with our deepest sorrow that we inform you of the death of our beloved husband/wife and father/mother [name] on [date]. A small family memorial service was held on [date]. Survived by his loving wife/husband [name] and his children [name] and grandchildren
  • The [name] family announces with great sadness the loss of their beloved father/mother [name] on [date]. A funeral service will be held on [date] at [time] at the [location]
  • Our family is deeply saddened to inform you that [name] died peacefully [day of week] night. As many of you know, she/he has been suffering for some time now. We are relieved that her death was painless and surrounded by family. Her funeral will be held on [day of week] at the [funeral home name] in [location] at [time].

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