Recent headlines have declared the COVID-19 pandemic “over” but truthfully, that is far from the case. According to the CDC, the ongoing impacts of the pandemic have left Americans grieving the loss of over one million family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. We are united in our loss on a scale that we have never before experienced in our lifetimes. The soaring demand for mental health services in the past couple of years, including therapy and counseling, further demonstrates that people need access to timely bereavement care provided by experts who are knowledgeable, experienced and trained in helping others cope with grief.
Compassion for individuals and their loved ones experiencing loss is at the heart of the collective hospice community. Many of our members currently provide bereavement services to their communities without outside funding or support. This is not a sustainable model and leaves Americans outside of members’ areas without the help they need during life’s most difficult moments.
Rochester’s Congressman Joe Morelle recently introduced the Grief Resilience Investment and Education Fund (GRIEF) Act in the House of Representatives. As the leading voice of the hospice community, NHPCO is working in collaboration with supporting organizations to garner Congressional support for this bill. If enacted, the GRIEF Act will expand access to bereavement care, by providing grant funding for community health care providers like hospices, schools, and other community resources, to expand their previously unfunded grief care.
Within the first year of working in hospice, I was part of a team that supported students, faculty and family members who were victims of a school shooting incident. The early intervention offered by our team and the many others who came to help from across the state was critically important to the emotional well-being of those affected by the violent act. In the wake of the pandemic, when unexpected death has been experienced on a global scale, the need to provide emotional, spiritual, and resourceful support has never been needed more.
Many people feel uncomfortable talking about death but it’s a universal, shared human experience: Yes, we all die, but we also experience the loss of loved ones. Thank you to Representative Morelle for his leadership in introducing the GRIEF Act. This bill is a landmark piece of legislation which takes a substantial step forward in expanding accessibility to care, reducing the stigma around bereavement services, and recognizing that everyone grieves differently; ongoing support should continue after the funeral for loved ones and community members.
Ben Marcantonio serves as COO and interim CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), the nation’s largest membership organization for providers and professionals who care for people affected by serious and life-limiting illness.