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Compassionate Care for the Dying and Grieving

Compassionate care for the dying and grievingDon Thulin and his wife, Renate, raised their granddaughter, Amanda, from the time she was an infant. As Amanda grew up, they found themselves having to play the role of parents: providing discipline, role-modeling, and enforcing everyday household rules. Amanda was close to her grandmother, and relied on her in the typical ways children rely on their mothers.

In 2007, Renate was diagnosed with cancer. The family supported Renate throughout her experience with cancer, but after an intestinal blockage and surgery in late 2010, Renate asked to receive hospice care at their home in Lacey. Amanda remembers, “It was the week before Christmas. I didn’t even know what hospice was.”

“Providence hospice was very helpful for us. They provided great information about what to expect, and we found she followed the path almost exactly,” says Don. He adds fondly, “My wife needed someone who was as strong willed as her. I remember one nurse; my wife just loved him.”

After Renate passed away, a hospice social worker contacted Don to invite Amanda to participate in SoundCareKids, a support program for families with children who have experienced the death of a significant person in their lives.

The SoundCareKids program is offered as a community service without charge to participants, and is funded in part by donations to Providence St. Peter Foundation. Don and Amanda began attending SoundCareKids the summer after Renate’s death. Don says “For a while, Amanda wouldn’t go into the bedroom where my wife died. But she has really come out of her shell, and I attribute that to SoundCareKids.”

During Amanda’s time in SoundCareKids, she learned more about her father, who passed away when she was an infant. “Amanda has been through a lot. SoundCareKids has helped Amanda understand the death of both her father, and her Oma. It has helped open up her father’s side of the family, which is a good opportunity – it’s given her more time with her family.”

According to Sharon Shadwell, coordinator for SoundCareKids, “One of the greatest benefits of support groups for grieving children and teens is the discovery that their feelings are a normal response to the death of a loved one. With all the pressure that young people feel to perform adequately and fit in with peers at school, we want them to have a place that they feel safe and accepted just the way they are.”

Amanda boasts with a big smile about SoundCareKids, “We have the best counselors.” Her grandfather adds, “She’s in a group with other young adults who have all gone through the same thing. She’s made new friends, and that’s invaluable.”

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