Tennessee Changemaker Reimagining End of Life

In Partnership with Judi’s House/JAG Institute of Denver, Colorado

Meet Childhood Bereavement Changemaker, Alive Hospice. Celebrating their 45th anniversary this year, Alive Hospice is the third-oldest hospice organization in the country. Based in Nashville, Alive provides grief support spanning a 12-county service area including individual counseling, children’s grief camps, school services, and crisis response across rural and metropolitan communities.

Alive Hospice is one of the six collaborative Changemaker partners working with our Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model (CBEM) team to create positive change for bereaved children and families. We recently spoke with Ali Drescher, MA, LPC, FT, GC-C, grief center director at Alive about how the CBEM has uniquely influenced their work as a hospice organization.

A Unique Lens: Hospice Care and Children’s Grief

Housed under a larger hospice umbrella, the grief resources at Alive are robust. While many of their clients are individuals in the 40+ age demographic, Ali and her grief care team have been on a mission to increase the number of families they serve. The data from the CBEM supports their efforts to provide programming to a much broader age group.

“Unfortunately, childhood bereavement can drop to the bottom of someone’s priority list fairly quickly. It is at the top of our list all the time. Impacting the life of a child has lifelong benefits…to have healthier, resilient children and families in our communities is critical. [The CBEM] is the tool that says, ‘Here’s how prevalent it is, it’s happening down your street, in your school, and in your community.'”

Alive recently shared findings from their collaboration with the CBEM team with the Nashville chapter of the Modern Widow’s Club, a national nonprofit that meets regularly at the Alive Hospice facility. In talking with this group about childhood bereavement, the conversation opened doors to hosting a children’s grief group during their monthly gatherings. A win-win for the young mothers of their chapter needing childcare to attend meetings.

“That is just one example of how a conversation about childhood bereavement and what we’re doing with the Changemaker initiative, opened a door to augment services.”

The Challenge of Accessibility

Nashville’s well-established music and arts scene draws visitors from across the globe. In addition to an influx of people moving to Nashville from the coasts in recent years, it has one of the fastest growing immigrant populations. One of the challenges for Alive is to ensure services remain accessible, particularly for non-native English speakers that may reside in rural service areas. Some of the work Ali and her team are doing through the Changemaker process is gaining a better understanding of languages spoken at home.

Alive recognizes that in order to serve their diverse community, it is important to provide resources and services in multiple languages so that children and families can engage with their programming.

Reimagining End of Life

“Our rally cry at Alive is to help people reimagine end of life. We’re trying to create a safe space for people to connect with their experience and the fullness of it, the tough stuff and the positive. The [Changemaker] project has been so fitting, helping us reimagine our own program and our community in a way we may have overlooked before.”

Ali admits at the beginning of the year she set out a goal to replicate Nashville programming across their five locations. In working with CBEM data, Ali quickly realized that goal may not meet the unique needs of the communities they serve. The Changemaker process has helped shift the focus towards data-driven decisions to develop programs, advocate for staffing levels, and overall, champion the well-being of all those grieving.

Gearing Up and Standing Ready

From Ali’s recent experience, Alive is seeing clients in need of grief support at an earlier stage. Families are reaching out for services within one to three months of a death as opposed to the average six to nine, a sign of the heavy burdens people are carrying during these challenging times, and a sign for Alive to be gearing up to care for those impacted by COVID-19 losses.

“We’re just getting started and we know that. We are in the ramp up and get ready phase. Having the [CBEM] data will help us [prepare] in the most appropriate way so we don’t overextend ourselves but also home in on the needs of the people we’re trying to serve.”