End-of-life professionals share their insights

Published on Apr 14, 2022

When we launched Empathy, we spoke with hundreds of families who had recently experienced the loss of a loved one. To create services that truly benefit the bereaved, it was important to listen to their stories about the complexities that arose in those weeks and months. And as part of this learning journey, we also began to encounter dozens of professionals, selfless individuals who have dedicated their careers to helping families through loss every single day.

These professionals—hospice nurses, social workers, bereavement coordinators, death doulas, therapists, and many others—serve on the front lines of bereavement, and their missions are intricately intertwined with Empathy’s. Learning from these caring professionals helps us deepen our understanding of loss and gain new insight into how we can help families navigate its challenges. 

As we seek to expand our services to help more families in more ways, we called upon this network to share their collective knowledge and experiences with us. And they came through in a big way.

They had a lot of great advice for bereaved families, often reiterating the importance of taking time and space, and seeking support when it is needed. “Lean in to the people who love you; accept offers of help and support,” wrote one spiritual support professional. 

One important thing we learned was that end-of-life professionals often do not have the time or resources that they need to provide the best possible care. Over 60% of those we spoke to said they needed more resources to address families’ needs, and 40% said additional education within their own field would be helpful. 

That’s not to mention the emotional weight that these professionals carry. One-third of our respondents reported needing support to address the emotional toll of their work. As a spiritual support professional said, “The cumulative impact of assisting grieving persons takes its toll on the staff that support the families.” Many of the professionals also noted this as a common misconception about their roles. “We don't sit around and sing ‘Kumbaya.’ Hospice, logistically and emotionally, is a very difficult job,” a therapist noted. 

For all the challenges of the position, the professionals were overwhelmingly positive about working in this often-misunderstood industry. “It is not a sad job; it is a job of honor,” said Leigh Branstetter, a registered nurse and patient and training coordinator. Many respondents echoed this sense of pride when talking about their work. One family support professional said that the most meaningful aspect of her work was that “I get to make a difference in a single day of each family I speak to. When facing transitions and loss, one day means the world.”

At Empathy we are dedicated to supporting families, and that support means learning from the people on the ground, and partnering with them to make sure families are supported every step of the way with all of their needs—emotional, practical, legal and financial.

We invite you to join our growing community of end-of-life professionals, changing the way the world deals with loss. Join our LinkedIn group to get started.

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