Making Death as Beautiful as it Can Be
“One thing that’s unique about our team is we have the luxury of time. We will sit with a family for an hour,” states Gina Kornfeind, a pediatric palliative care social worker and bereavement coordinator at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital. “Our palliative care team is a service that helps children who have life-limiting conditions and their families. We see patients from day one of life through their twenties, if they had a pediatric diagnosis and stay on the pediatric floor. As a palliative care team, when we have to change what we’re hoping for and we’re no longer working toward curative treatment, we always care. We help with pain and symptom management, quality of life planning, goals of care, end of life planning, and bereavement. We aim to get to know our patients and to provide support to them and their family. We always try to make their life, their transition and their death as beautiful as it can be. It’s really a privilege.”
“We put on an annual family memorial service every August. We have around 150 family members and staff that come back to UCLA Health for a special rose ceremony. We also have a family bereavement group for parents and siblings once a month. It is one of the most sacred parts of my job because I get to accompany them on their journey of healing. I get to see them come in with the unthinkable, unimaginable loss of a child and take it one step at a time, with each other and with mentors. The group has people who lost a child anywhere from 10 years ago to five years ago to six months ago, and they mentor each other. It’s amazing to provide that space and be part of that healing. I treasure the opportunity to work with an area of life that is often not talked about or brushed away because it is uncomfortable. It is really, really hard and sad, but it’s learning to have a different relationship with the loved one who died and navigating that in the best way possible."