To view this page ensure that Adobe Flash Player version 11.1.0 or greater is installed.

Every case is a lesson for the team. “Everyone is different,” says the Rev. Irene Johnson, pediatric chaplain at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. “This team doesn’t dismiss anything. The members process everything they experience and try to make things better for the next time.” THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CPCC AND A PATIENT’S FAMILY extends beyond the child’s death. The team members remain on-call to families and help connect them with local services to aid in bereavement. In addition, any parent or sibling of a UCLA pediatric patient who has died can attend the Comforting Hearts Family Bereavement Group. The free group, which is supported by a grant from The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation and other sources and which meets twice a month at a church in Westwood that donates its space, is guided by Gina Kornfeind, MSW, MS, CPCC’s support and bereavement coordinator. Kornfeind, along with volunteer social workers and community volunteers, leads two sessions — one geared for parents and one for siblings. For parents, themes tend to address issues such as how to deal with work again, how to interact with friends, how to handle holidays, relatives or traveling. Everything that is the “new normal,” Kornfeind says. That includes navigating difficult questions such as: How many kids do I say I have now? What about the possibility of having another child in the future? For siblings, the support group includes sharing, as well as arts and crafts and a musical component. “The idea is for them to build trust and a sense of support with the staff and with one another, to feel connected with other kids who are also grieving, to learn how to cope with this loss and also to have some normal fun and camaraderie again,” Kornfeind says. Ashlee Malabanan’s mother attends the meetings regularly. “It gives us a place where we talk about the way we feel and understand that each of us has been there,” Jeannie Malabanan says. “We can talk to other people in our lives about our feelings and experiences, but they really don’t get it because they haven’t been there. So this makes a huge difference. It’s a safe place for us to talk about how much it hurts and how we deal with it every day.” Top: The Comforting Hearts Family Bereavement Group offers grieving parents and siblings “a safe place for us to talk about how much it hurts and how we deal with it every day,” says Jeannie Malabanan. Bottom: (From left) Parent Beth Bayouth speaks with social worker Gina Kornfeind and parents Jeannie Malabanan, Rebecca Vega and Lydia Willison during a Comforting Hearts Family Bereavement Group meeting. Two months before she died, Ashlee, unbeknownst to her family, created a Website to raise money for her care, thinking she would need additional funds. In a short time, she had raised $8,000; her mother has donated the funds to help expand the bereavement program. Says Malabanan: “No family should be alone while processing the end of life of their child.” Marina Dundjerski is a freelance writer and the author of UCLA: The First Century (Third Millennium Publishing, 2012). To view a photo slideshow about the Comforting Hearts Family Bereavement Group, click on the link to this article at: U MAGAZINE 37