Darwin Huartson is part of the VITAS Innovative Hospice Care team in San Antonio, Texas, and spoke recently with Dr. Gloria Horsley about the role of hospice care—as well as many of the myths surrounding it. He’s a bereavement services manager and has been working with VITAS for 18 years. For years hospices served a niche community, but in recent years grief experts in general have come to understand that hospices can and should play a bigger role in the bereavement process. Like many hospices, a big part of the VITAS mission statement is to best serve their clients, but a second goal is to serve the community. “That’s what I like to do,” says Huartson.
He’s had his own experience with bereavement and grief, as his partner was killed three years ago. There are still days he wakes up and asks himself, “Did that really happen?” For Huartson, one word that has been a huge help in his own grieving process is reconciliation. The first year is typically the toughest for those going through a loss, and Huartson encourages people to “be gentle with yourself.” Some days you’ll feel reconciled, others not, and when you’re not you should look within and simultaneously reach out for support.
The Bumpy Road of Grief
“Connecting with people you feel you are emotionally safe with” is the ticket, according to Huartson, no matter where you are on your grief journey. Sharing your fears, sadness, feelings and anything else is a must. However, come year two, you think you’re “better” but grief is a lifelong process many times. “There’s that sense…the community isn’t there as much as they used to be.” It’s the griever’s responsibility to clue others in, although it’s great when others keep asking and reaching out.
“Meaning making has been really important for me,” says Huartson, and he recommends remembering the meaning of the person’s life every day.