The journey through end of life: Supporting the loved ones of those who pass

At Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, the Spiritual Care Services team provides patients, their loved ones and hospital staff with emotional, spiritual and religious support. This support is particularly impactful during the journey through end of life. In addition to offering end of life rituals and memorial services, the Spiritual Care Services team has recently begun offering two new services designed to provide comfort and a sense of peace at end of life. In this two-part series, we will explore how these services support both patients and their families.

In part two, we turn our focus to supporting the families of those who pass by providing a special keepsake—a heartbeat in a bottle—in remembrance of their loved one.

“When a patient transitions to comfort measures only—which means the care team stops aggressive medical intervention and focuses on keeping the patient comfortable—we allow that patient to pass peacefully here at our hospital,” explains Spiritual Care Coordinator Tara Deonauth, MDiv. “For the family and friends who accompany the patient on their journey through end of life, we wanted to do something special.”

Inspired by the work of one of our ICU nurses in her role at another hospital, BWFH’s Spiritual Care Services team recently began enclosing a print-out of the deceased patient’s final electrocardiogram trace—essentially their final heartbeat—in a bottle labeled with the patient’s name and the date.

“Our intention is to give the family members a touchstone—something to hold onto as they begin their grieving process,” says Deonauth. “End of life is a deeply sacred experience for both the patient and the family. We do all that we can to cultivate a setting that is peaceful and supportive, and respectful of a person’s values and beliefs. We’re here to provide that to the patient, but also to those accompanying the patient.”

Published 9/1/22

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