Grieving universal; help is available, hospice officials say

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — Although grief affects people in different ways, all those who have lost loved ones can benefit from kindness, a fundraising breakfast audience was told Thursday.

“One size does not fit all when it comes to grief,” said Cristina Manzoni, volunteer bereavement counselor for Hospice of Jefferson County, one service provided by Jefferson Healthcare hospital.

“Each person’s grief is different,” Manzoni said. “And yet our grief is all the same because we can all benefit from having listening hearts, open minds and steady hands to accompany us.”

Manzoni addressed 135 people at the third annual Hospice Foundation for Jefferson Healthcare fundraiser, held at Fort Worden State Park.

The breakfast raised more than $23,000 in support of hospice programs, which include direct patient care that goes beyond what Medicare, Medicaid and health insurance provides.

The nonprofit foundation is separate from Hospice of Jefferson County, said hospice Director Golda Posey, a registered nurse.

The foundation raises money for services that are not funded, such as grief counseling and bereavement support, which are provided to anyone in the community, not just hospice clients.

Along with Manzoni, speakers included Hospice of Jefferson County’s assistant medical director, Dr. Carolyn Day, and board member Cindy Thayer.

Thayer urged the creation of a grief “summer camp” for children.

“When I was 10 years old, my father was killed in an airplane crash,” she said.

“If I had been given the opportunity to attend a grief camp in my youth, I wouldn’t be experiencing grief about the trauma some 62 years later,” she said.

Thayer said she had made plans to attend the foundation’s first fundraising breakfast two years ago because “it sounded like a good organization and someday I may need it,” but that need came sooner than expected.

Her husband suffered a stroke and died four days before the event, which she decided to attend to get out among people.

But she found it emotionally draining.

“Friends would call and ask how I was doing, and I said I was just fine, even as I was lying in bed curled up in the fetal position after stuffing myself with a giant helping of macaroni and cheese,” she said.

She said she did not seek grief counseling, agreeing to attend only to be company for a friend who also had lost a spouse.

“I walked in thinking that I was a strong woman and I didn’t need this but took six steps into the room, and the tears began,” she said.

“It turned out to be what I really needed. We learned to face our horrendous loss and learn to work through our extreme grief.

“After six weeks, I really was on my way to healing — not there yet, but getting there.”

Day encouraged patients to seek palliative care sooner rather than later during an illness and to make arrangements for that care while still healthy.

While hospice is intended to make patients comfortable for six months or more after a terminal diagnosis, most people wait, Day said, with half of those across the country entering the program during the final three weeks of their lives.

“Patients are actively seeking a different end-of-life experience than they saw their parents endure,” Day said.

“I continually hear tragic stories of highly interventional, impersonal and institutional deaths where patients were never told of their prognosis and were not given an opportunity to have a choice or to have control the end of their lives,” she said.

“The concept of a good death is becoming routine,” Day added.

“I believe we are uniquely positioned in this lovely community to meet our patients’ needs and allow them and their families to reap the benefits of the end-of-life care they deserve.”

For information about a grief support group that meets for six Mondays beginning July 15, contact Stephanie Reith at or 360-385-0610.

For information or to donate, email board President Michael Kubec at or phone 360-385-0610.

Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at

Last modified: June 13. 2013 6:17PM
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