Faith Hospice Memorial Service, Counseling Enable Grief-stricken People Walk Back into Life

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Faith Hospice No. 1From left: Faith Hospice bereavement manager Janet Jaymin enabled people like Sandi Veenkamp stay grounded in life and in the Lord.Sandi Veenkamp has walked through the valley of the shadow of death. But then, the Cascade resident discovered anew the anchor in her life that got her through the deaths of her husband, mother, brother and sister-in-law.

"I have a picture of the Lord reaching down and hauling somebody out of the mire and that was what He was doing all along (for her)," said Veenkamp. "There's no doubt in my mind the Lord was walking with me. I sit down in the morning and invite Him in mind, body and spirit."

World stretched

Veenkamp's world was stretched to the hilt when her husband of 48 years, Nick, died in June 2017 due to prostate cancer and a heart-related condition. The anguish didn't stop there. A week later, her brother and sister-in-law were killed in a traffic accident. Then in January 2018, Veenkamp's mother died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease complications.

Both Veenkamp's husband and mother were Faith Hospice patients. Holland Home owns Faith Hospice, which provides community-wide hospice services in homes, hospitals and nursing homes. Holland Home also owns Trillium Woods, its 20-bed in-patient facility at 8214 Pfeiffer Farms Dr. SW in Byron Center.

Service of Remembrance and butterflies

Faith Hospice No. 2Real butterflies were released to symbolize a new beginning for loved ones who died.Veenkamp was among around 200 people who participated in Faith Hospice's Service of Remembrance and Butterfly Release recently held at Trillium Woods. The theme of the service, We Grieve with Hope, provided an opportunity for participants to commemorate the lives of their loved ones, while focusing on the resurrection symbolized by the release of the butterflies, according to Janet Jaymin, Faith Hospice's bereavement manager.

"We have a lot of families who don't have a memorial service for their loved ones when they die," said Jaymin. "This service can be significant to them because it gives them an opportunity to give them closure."

It's also a reunion

The memorial service is a reunion, too, added Jaymin, between family members and the hospice staff that stood alongside them.

"There's a lot of hugging because they shared in something that was so personal to them," she said. "There's a lot of meaning to meet with these folks who cared with their loved ones."

Helping people heal in the mix

Yet, a memorial service may not be enough, Jaymin adds, and that is why one-on-one and group counseling also is available, not only to surviving family members but the community at large.

"Often people are just lost, particularly somebody married 50 years and their husband dies and now what?" said Jaymin. "What's next in life for me? We try to help people heal. There's hope. We help people get ready to walk back into life again."

There's the possibility for some to have their faith in God shaken.

"Sometimes people lose a little bit of their faith in the beginning but then they lean back into it," said Jaymin. "God doesn't leave us even in our times of feeling alone, God is still present with us. They will pick up on that in time even though it may not happen right away."

A gut punch

Faith Hospice No. 3Participants were given a butterfly-shaped souvenir to plant so it can blossom in member of their loved ones.Grieving people may be told by well-intended who are astonished they're "not over" the deaths of their loved ones. It's another reason why counseling is important.

"It is a gut punch for these folks and they're afraid to talk about it, or if they talk about, they might have a family member who thinks they are depressed," said Jaymin.

"They need to continue to talk about their loved one because often families don't want to hear it anymore which is hurtful to that person. But a group (therapy) is a place where they can belong and know they can talk about their loved one and know it's OK to express their feelings. We don't forget people that we love. One of the first things I tell people is, 'If you're coming here to get over this, I'll tell you it's not going to happen. You don't get over people that you love.'"

Paying it forward

Veenkamp is among those who received emotional and spiritual counseling from Jaymin. She said her enormous, personal losses were alleviated, in part, because of the support she received from Faith Hospice. Now, she intends to work as a Faith Hospice volunteer.

"Faith Hospice made a huge difference in my struggles," said Veenkamp. "They were the first responders when my husband and mother passed. If I can help somebody, with guidance with Faith Hospice, I can draw from a lot of experience."
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Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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