November is National Hospice Month; it’s also the 30th anniversary of hospice in the Twin Tiers. Since 1981, Southern Tier Hospice and Palliative Care has provided end of life services to people throughout the region. Professional staff and volunteers offer comfort, medical care and compassion as families face the mysterious, often frightening prospect of death. According to patient services provider, Margie Rogers, Hospice can never heal a broken heart or bring a loved one back. “We can just be there so no one has to go it alone,” she says. “We can also help survivors replace the emptiness with strength and hope to take forward.”
When death smacks up against the classic uneasiness of teenage-hood, the grieving process can be that much more complicated. “Most teens don’t understand the depth of loss and don’t get a lot of support,” confirms Chelsea Ambrose, MSW, Hospice’s Bereavement Social Worker. “Connecting teens with peers who’ve experienced a similar loss is a big piece of the healing.”
Rogers and Ambrose collaborated with Earth Arts of Ithaca and Tanglewood Nature Center to put together a program for youth ages 13 - 17. “Using nature helps demonstrate the cycles of life,” says Rogers. “Combined with a variety of art and activities, the program is designed to help teens explore their experience of grief and come out with a stronger sense of themselves and community.” Ambrose adds her hope that teens come away from the program with a social network of supportive friends that lasts long after the day-long event.
It’s especially poignant that Rose’s Youth Philanthropists, a committed group of young people under the direction of the Community Foundation awarded the grant to make the event possible, providing yet another layer of teen-to-teen support and care for peers in pain.