Hospice hosts luncheon to help area residents cope with loss


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The loss of a loved one is a hard burden to bear, and the Iowa City Hospice hopes to show people who have lost someone special that they are not alone.

The Hospice hosts a Bereavement Luncheon monthly for residents who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

“This is a great chance for people who’ve experienced loss to connect with others who have shared their pain in an informal environment,” said Donita Hermsen, a grief counselor at the Hospice.

Hermsen said officials decided on a luncheon because people dealing with loss can find it challenging to go and eat, so the event provides a social outlet in a safe environment.

She said that while many people benefit from having a formal setting in which to talk to someone about their grief, it is important to provide informal settings to cope with loss as well.

“We found people need something less structured to feel more comfortable confronting their loss,” Hermsen said.

The luncheon has gone on monthly for the Hospice for many years. The location varies among restaurants in Kalona and Muscatine. This month’s luncheon is at the Kalona Bakery.

“We have a lot of people come to us from outside of Iowa City; we want to be there for them as well and make our services as available as possible,” Hermsen said.

Barry Schreier, the director of the University of Iowa Counseling Service, said informal events such as the Hospice luncheon can be  beneficial for attendees.

“We have so many rituals during loss, burials, and wakes, and these can help with grieving in a formal setting,” he said. “But once these rituals are over, it can seem like others have moved on, but you haven’t. So the next stage is to cope with loss in more informal ways.”

Schreier said loss is a stage of life many people will experience; in the past, it was not as socially acceptable to grieve in public, and it is important for people to feel they don’t have to hide their grief.

He said programs such as this allow people to feel safe showing their emotions in a less-private setting while also helping them maintain healthy habits, such as eating.

“The old saying that says everything heals with time is not true,” Schreier said. “It’s how we spend that time that really matters.”

While the Hospice Luncheon is a program specific to the Iowa City Hospice, Jon Radulovic, vice president of communications at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, said programs such as this one are very important to the organization.

“No two people go through the process the same,” he said. “We try to offer a variety of programs both informal and formal to be as flexible as possible.”

It is important for different hospice centers to address the needs of more than just patients but the community at large, he said.

Hermsen said the luncheon is a way the Hospice stays committed to the community.

“This is part of our commitment, to provide opportunity for outreach and to help those experiencing loss through the different stages of grief,” she said.

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