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Family Heartworks program can help with sorrow and mourning

By Staff | Jun 1, 2018

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary These Heartworks bags are a product of UPMC Susquehanna and a partnership with all the local libraries to distribute them to those who are suffering from the loss of a loved one. There are 3 different bags as shown here at the Hughesville Area Public Library to help families and children with pet loss, family grief, and emotions, feelings and support.

MUNCY – We all have something in common, and that is life and death. A baby being born or a new puppy brings joy to many, but all too often death can be difficult to handle. A loss of life can lead to depression, emotional despair, or an overwhelming sense of desolation. To help with feelings and give support, UPMC Susquehanna has partnered with the local libraries by offering Family Heartworks bags.

In early April of this year, these bags were delivered to each of the public libraries in Lycoming County for circulation. They are part of Hospice and Bereavement with UPMC Susquehanna.

Linda Bryant who is the Heartworks program coordinator and a paid staff member said this is a way to reach families who need them. “It is a camaraderie of support to realize I’m not the only one this has happened to,” she said.

There are 3 different bags. One is for pet loss, one for family grief and one for feelings, emotions and support. Inside each of the bags are content related books, puzzles, puppets, activity kits, games and memory cards. Also inside is a “keepables bag” with some supplies and an activity kit that parent and child can have for keeps and share together according to Bryant.

These pilot bags are an extension of the the Susquehanna Health Foundation along with private donations. Employee giving is encouraged from hospital staff and they work together with Bryant and the Hospital Auxiliary to get what they need to fill the bags.

All ages are represented for the Heartworks program. There are DVD’s and pamphlets for teens and stuffed animals and lively characters for pre-schoolers.

Crystal Millard, librarian at Muncy Public Library, said the bags have been circulating on a regular basis. They are available in the children’s room for each of the libraries. “Just ask us for them if you can’t find them,” said Victoria-Thompson Hess from the Hughesville Area Public Library.

Millard said she put photos on Muncy’s Facebook page of the contents. “We allow 3 weeks for the bags to be out,” Millard said. “It is a great tool for parents to work through difficult situations with their children,” she added. Posters displayed at the library shows what’s in the bags. “Those with very young children have told us the games helped with their kids to express what they cannot say.”

Meanwhile, grief support groups are offered twice a month at Divine Providence Hospital for families. The program was initiated in 2009 for families to cope with a loss and process through the death of a loved one. According to Bryant, the support groups are run by volunteers. “It is not therapy, but a safe place to come to for support and comfort,” she said. “Often family members want to protect one another, and death is not discussed much in a family setting. Grief is a natural process.”

Donations are always welcome and encouraged for the project bags. To do so go to UPMC Susquehanna.org/donate. “All donations stay local,” assured Bryant, and part time volunteers are always needed.