Sylvia Johnson is the bereavement coordinator for Louisiana Hospice & Palliative Care in Opelousas, La. She has really taken the agency’s grief support program and made it her own. Several families served by the program needed to extend their services past the 13-month mark, and Sylvia is always able to make time to accommodate them for as long as they need. She has also provided grief support for employees at several surrounding
agencies who have experienced their own personal loss. Her program is above the national benchmark on eight of nine indicators in our new bereavement survey tool.

In August, Sylvia provided an interactive grief seminar at a local ministry for youth who had
experienced deaths in their family. About 40 young people and their parents participated in the seminar. She was able to share information about working through grief, myths and facts of grief, common reactions to grief, and how unresolved grief could turn into complicated grief and depression. She shared with the group ways to cope with their grief and how they could turn their sadness into a celebration of their loved ones. Sylvia had several demonstrations such as making a personal memory box to keep loved one’s keepsakes, planting trees in their loved one’s honor, and using candles during the holidays and birthdays to keep that person alive in their hearts. The young people were excited to take some of these tangible ideas home with them. Sylvia also provided the families with resources on grief that they could continue to utilize after the seminar was over.

This event created an opportunity for our Opelousas hospice to support families in our community who have experienced loss. Sylvia recognized a need in her community to support young people with grief – since they have had many patients and community members dying at a young age, leaving behind families who are in distress.