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Resources for dealing with the death of a volunteer

General Mental Health Support:

Resources Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress www.cstsonline.org American Psychiatric Association www.psych.org 

American Psychological Association www.apa.org


Death of a Volunteer https://www.theiacp.org/sites/default/files/all/d-e/Deathofvolunteer.pdf

How to Handle the Death of your Volunteer and Feeling Directionless

https://www.trackitforward.com/content/how-handle-death-one-your-volunteers-and-feeling- directionless

Tips for Supporting Grief in the Workplace https://goodgrief0538.wpengine.com/wp- content/uploads/2017/04/15-Tips-for-Supporting-Grief-in-the-Workplace.pdf


Grief Leadership During COVID-19: 


Coping with Grief and Loss – Mourning the Changes since COVID-19


When the World is in Crisis, We Need Grief Leaders

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/covid-grief-leadership/2020/09/16/51210be4- f444-11ea-bc45-e5d48ab44b9f_story.html


The purpose of this survey was to collect stories and ideas and compile them into a resource for other volunteer staff to learn from.

What policies and procedures does your institution have in place to respond with when a volunteer passes away?

·      Include a photo and brief info in monthly volunteer newsletter. Email to all staff. Card to family. Volunteer dept. staff attend funeral if it is local and timing works.
·      None, each death is considered individually; with about 600 vols, we've had 3-6/year
·      These policies are for the Holocaust survivors who volunteer with the Museum only. When a survivor passes away, we send an all-staff announcement out (which includes a photo of the survivor) with information about them, their volunteer work, and funeral/shiva services. We also help create a social media post to acknowledge the passing of the survivors and their contribution to our important work. This is shared on the Museum's social media channels (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.)
·      We do not have one.
·      Not much, there's an informal network to let others know who might also have worked with or knew the volunteer.
·      We don't really have a policy or formal procedure. As Administer of Volunteers and Tours I let other volunteers know , a donation is made in their memory to the Volunteer Endowment Fund and if possible I will attend a service and calling hours.
·      nothing institution wide. I send an email to my volunteer corps letting them know of the death (sharing a few details of the docent who passed) and any funeral details, I always include the family's address to send cards. my dept sends a card, may reach out to family by phone, try to attend the funeral/memorial
·      When a volunteer passes away, we notify staff and other volunteers who worked closely with that volunteer. We ask the (usually) family member if flowers or cards may be sent, and if there are services, if fellow volunteers who wish to attend are able to do so. If so, that information is distributed to volunteers and staff. We then publish the names of volunteers that have passed in a volunteer newsletter on a tri-annual basis.
·      No specific policies or procedures
·      none
·      We don't have any formal procedures, however I always let staff know then, depending on how well known the volunteer was to the volunteer pool I will send an email with the news. I will also send individual emails to volunteers who worked closely with the deceased.
·      none
·      Nothing specific. We do try to send flowers if appropriate and post it on an In Memoriam section on the docent website.
·      We have no set procedures - what we do is based on the volunteer. When one of my docents died of Covid in January, I held an online Celebration of him, which included his favorite artist. I also asked all the other volunteers and docents to send me their favorite memories of him and I compiled those in a book with photos for his wife. Finally, I created an award in his name, the (Volunteer Name) Volunteer of the Year award, and gave it to him posthumously as our awards banquet in March. This award will be given to a different volunteer every year. When a 2nd docent passed in April, museum managers went to the memorial service, and I created a book of photos of the docent for his wife. That docent was not active at the time he passed, unlike the first one.
·      I do not believe there are any official policies.

What does your workplace do to help you feel supported personally in the event of a volunteer’s death? What do you wish they did?

·      Having a clear process is really helpful. Every time I have to send out the "Sad news from the Volunteer Department" email, I receive lots of responses from fellow staff members, thanking me for sharing the info, sharing memories they have of that volunteer, and giving me comfort and support.
·      Nothing specific
·      Counseling services are provided for all staff members, which we have certainly taken advantage of. Our workplace supports our decisions to attend services and to take time off, if needed.
·      They supported me with organizing the memorial service onsite. I wish there would be a standard in place so I can replicate a procedure and not feel like I'm asking too much.
·      Not much, except the time to attend the funeral if we wish to.
·      I think that other volunteers and staff members might let me know how they are saddened by the passing of this volunteer.
·      there's condolences. I’m not sure what I wish they did, if anything.
·      I am usually the sole person to manage the aftermath of the death of a volunteer. I don't know that there is much more that my workplace could do for me. Sometimes, when it is someone I was close to, I would appreciate being able to take a day off to grieve and process the loss and work with volunteers to help them do the same.
·      A moment of silence in a meeting and then off to the races; a reminder to use resources like the Employee Assistance Program is a good way to formalize self-care and center mental health.
·      They are caring for sure and ensure I am available to attend a funeral. I don't know what i wish they did
·      There isn't any policy in place for this, however I do have people I can talk to at work.
·      currently nothing; have consistent policies in place for all volunteers, not just volunteer/big donors
·      That is a great question. I have been dealing with the death of several spouses of docents and that is very hard -- offering them support. My husband died 3 years ago and I got incredible support from the colleagues at my workplace so there is no problem getting it.
·      Nothing. I wish they'd acknowledged that I not only was grieving for the volunteer, but I was also the emotional support for the other volunteers. While they acknowledged what I did for the volunteers, they never acknowledged what I was going through nor did they offer me any type of support whatsoever.
·      I'm encouraged to attend memorial services. Often, colleagues have joined me.

How have you seen the death of a volunteer impact your community of volunteers?

·      The passing of one of our volunteers certainly has a tremendous impact on the group of survivors who volunteer with the Museum. They've lost a close companion, a family member. We generally take time at one of our meetings to share memories and reflections about that individual to grieve together a bit. I've also seen it highlight their own mortality to an extent, which leads them to participate in more programming/volunteer work - they worry about the time they have left to make an impact and a difference.
·      The volunteers are here long term, serving an average of 15 years. For them, it's losing a close friend.
·      Not directly
·      We recently lost a 99 year old volunteer , docent and donor and it certainly impacted our entire institution.
·      volunteers work on teams. those teams rally and support each other, often collaborate on a donation or another way to honor the volunteer directly. it doesn't impact the volunteer corps as a whole
·      There have definitely been some deaths of volunteers that impacted our community of volunteers more than others. For the most part however our volunteers have suggested that because many of them are older they are used to having friends pass away. Not that it makes it easy for them, but that it is less shocking and difficult for them at their age.
·      When the loss is violent, shock, dismay and anger; when it's the result of an illness, just sadness. In most cases, and especially at the end of a long life, we celebrate with a memorial.
·      Most of our deaths have been retired volunteers, but it always leads to a feeling of solidarity among other volunteers who care for one another
·      Most continue to come to volunteer. Small groups usually gather on their own to mourn and celebrate the volunteer's life.
·      somewhat
·      Yes, especially when there is a circle of friends involved. The docent cadre is often made up of people who knew one another previously or become close while docenting.
·      They were shaken by the death of my first one because he was extremely active. They doubled down on their mask wearing.
·      The loss is felt and acknowledged, especially when they know the volunteer the met pretty well, but it hasn't greatly impacted how/when they volunteer, that I've noticed.

What “organic” methods of coping with death have you noticed in your community?

·      Docent volunteers will donate a book to the museum's library focused on the area of art that was of interest to that volunteer. Family members created an endowment for conservation and volunteers get to vote on which piece gets conserved every few years.
·      Support to families
·      Our community will come together on their own or call one another to check on the other volunteers. They'll write letters to the family of the departed and/or will make donations in their name.
·      They share memories of the volunteer and attend memorial services.
·      Sharing stories of the volunteer
·      Reaching out with others and having conversations about this person.
·      cards. reaching out to family members if they knew them. reaching out to development directly to establish a memorial
·      Volunteers have typically spent time reminiscing about their departed friends and passing along recipes from them, or writing articles about them in the volunteer newsletter.
·      Sharing stories and posting photos on the personal email exchange
·      a lot of storytelling and checking on each other
·      Small groups gathering on their own to remember the deceased.
·      meal trains for family of volunteers who passed
·      Celebrating someone instead of mourning.
·      I don't know that these are organic, but the museum sends condolences to family members, I've seen staff and volunteers at memorial services, we've honored them and volunteer events.

What do you feel your role is as a volunteer manager in assisting your volunteer community with their grief?

·      Provide photos and stories to families about how their loved one participated as a volunteer
·      Notification of the passing and dissemination of funeral services/information is paramount. Providing a safe space to share memories is another role.
·      Having a place to honor the volunteer, listen to others, offer an insight to give other volunteers a peace of mind.
·      I feel I should do more, but I have found I don't have the personal bandwidth to be help others through their grief.
·      To let them know and encourage them to speak about their feelings
·      I think they may want more active role from me, but I don't know what exactly that could be. I try to give every death equal treatment so try and follow the same pattern. I've had two of my favorite docents die this year, but I tried to make sure that it wasn't obvious since others have died this year who weren't
·      I feel it is my role to give them the space to grieve as they see appropriate. The grieving process is so unique that it is hard to imagine and one-size fits all approach to dealing with that amongst volunteers. Instead I feel that my role is to honor the volunteer, share the information with those for whom it is relevant and to always be compassionate. I also feel it is my role to support the family of the departed that contact me to notify me of their relative's passing. Many times, a son or daughter will approach me to inquire about how their parent was involved at the institution in past years for writing an obituary or preparing a eulogy. The role my institution plays in people's lives is often very big and is part of that person's identity. I support the surviving family members by being kind, courteous, grateful, and informative about their loved one and the contribution they made.
·      That I'm not trained well-enough and would like to tap into hospice training
·      Being there for them to talk to, giving them a place to share
·      I reach out by email and/or phone and listen to the volunteers.
·      not sure
·      I send out a notice with the obituary. And docents often respond back to me personally, so I act as a grief counselor if needed. We often have a string of memories which is lovely. Since one participant in our discussion mentioned about sharing photos it makes me think those might be appreciated by the families.
·      I am their emotional support when they grieve for the loss of other volunteers.
·      I feel my primary role is to share information that a volunteer has passed, pass on any information I receive about services and memorials, and collect any messages other volunteers would like to share to the family or museum community more broadly.

Do you feel it is important for Volunteer Managers to, within reason, attend services for volunteers? Why or why not? Should your workplace provide paid time for this?

·      Yes, if possible, and it definitely should be paid time. This has never been an issue for volunteer department staff, but it has been a problem when admissions or security staff have asked to attend a funeral for a volunteer they worked closely with and were told they could not attend on museum time. It's a double standard that could easily be remedied the few times it happens.
·      This is left up to me, I consider it person by person. All my time is paid while attending services.
·      As they are able. For many volunteers, the Museum is the center of their social life and they give a lot of time to the institution. As a team, we try to make sure that someone is able to attend, although it is never required or expected of us. If no one from our team is able to go, we will reach out to other colleagues who worked with the volunteer in some capacity to ensure a representative from the Museum is there. Our workplace does provide paid time for this.
·      Managers should attend if the volunteer's family makes it open to others outside of the family. I believe it is our duty to be there. Volunteers give so much to the organization for literally nothing in return. The least we could do to show our appreciation is to attend their service. I personally would feel uncomfortable with the notion of my workplace paying for attending a service, but understand that it is personal time taken away and others may feel that it should be compensated.
·      Yes and yes. Funerals are about observance and community and workplaces should acknowledge that.
·      I think that it is very important if possible to attend services for volunteers or their close family members. I do go during work time and that has never been a problem.
·      if possible yes. my docents absolutely count it as a slight if you aren't present or broadly share that you can't. I never considered attending a service as PTO - I consider it part of my job responsibilities (other duties as assigned)
·      I do think that it is appropriate for volunteer managers to attend services when that volunteer was a very active and invested volunteer, if it is determined through family that it would be appropriate and welcome from them. I usually ask if it is an open-service and should I or docent peers wish to attend, would that be welcome. I do also think that it should be paid time to attend as it is a part of being involved in the lives of volunteers. This, I understand is something that, depending on the nature of volunteering could be difficult to manage. I am grateful that our volunteers are not passing in great numbers at this time, but we have a demographic of volunteer that is well above 70, and I imagine that it could become a more frequent occurrance and that could become time-intensive. It's a difficult question to answer. I am a salaried worker and would find it easier to make time to do this type of thing on work time than an hourly employee might.
·      If families ask, I make time for it -- if it falls during regular work hours, I wouldn't take PTO; if it's an all day non-workday event, I'd take a comp day.
·      Yes, because it is the way to really show appreciation to the family. Yes, my work does give me the time
·      It depends on the specific volunteer/manager relationship. Paid time should be provided, but not necessary. I would still attend if I wasn't being paid.
·      yes and yes
·      We do this on an ad hoc basis. I know this sounds odd for the subject, but I tried to avoid having lunch or other social events one on one with docents. I was afraid it would be seen as favoritism (I am also the tour coordinator) and I think attending services could be viewed in the same way. If you go to one you should go to them all. I go to the ones I can attend, and services for their spouses as well, but can't make them all. It is paid time when I go.
·      Yes I have and will continue to do so.
·      I feel it's important for me personally, and I appreciate that my museum supports that with paid time. However, I could see how the "importance" could vary depending on factors such as the size of the volunteer program and the relationship between volunteers and their manager. Volunteers do a lot of work for museums, so I do think it's important for Volunteer Managers to acknowledge the passing. Attending services is a clear way to do that, but there are others.

What do you wish your co-workers understood about how the death of a volunteer affects you?

·      That sometimes grieving or attending a funeral is on my work to do list
·      I have personal relationships with volunteers, I believe staff are unaware how well I know many and how their passing affects me.
·      I think the constant reminders of survivors passing is tough. Most colleagues only interact with one or two on a regular basis, but we work with all of them, so the loss is compounded.
·      I wish they would understand that the volunteers who pass are irreplaceable. They just see "Volunteer" not the person behind that title, and I wish they would pay them more respect. These are people who have an enormous heart and provide a wealth of knowledge. I look to the volunteers for guidance in my work and losing one makes me feel lost.
·      I am not sure that I would need more from them.
·      I think my co-workers are understanding
·      I wish that co-workers understood that losing a volunteer is like losing a friend, even if I didn't know them outside of their volunteer service.
·      There's a different kind of bond -- but this isn't a challenge when the volunteer is well known throughout the institution.
·      That is isn't just losing a person to do a job. It is losing a friend, almost like a family member
·      I work in a small non-profit so my co-workers are supportive of me when I'm feeling emotional over the death of a volunteer.
·      not sure
·      they are sympathetic and supportive, so nothing.
·      That it is like losing a coworker, a member of the staff.
·      The co-workers I've discussed this with seem to understand well.

What resources do you have for grief management?

·      My husband
·      Counseling. PTO. Sick leave. My team.
·      Speaking to coworkers or volunteers.
·      We do not really have any grief management resources in place.
·      none really
·      I do not have any resources other than my own experience at losing family members and friends and understanding my own relationship with grief. It has been a difficult road for me to understand grief and I feel that through my own personal experience I was able to gain a greater understanding of how to positively manage those feelings, giving them space, without allowing them to overcome me.
·      HR supplied
·      I have the rest of my volunteers to share in that grief
·      none
·      I work at a University so know I can get the support outside of my workplace if needed.
·      None
·      The support of co-workers and personal resources.

What generational differences have you observed in handling grief, and how do you manage these differences?

·      Older volunteers have been more accepting maybe because they have had a long lifetime of experience handling grief. The sudden or unexpected deaths are hardest for everyone.
·      I think it's tougher on the younger generation who haven't experienced death as much. They seem to take it harder than some of the older generations. Talking is a great way to handle grief. Simply acknowledging the loss and pain makes a great deal of difference.
·      I think for older generations, death is expected and doesn't come as quite as a shock and they move on more quickly. I haven't had to manage these differences as the volunteers are within the same generation, but there is a difference between staff and volunteers.
·      I have not been too aware of this.
·      i'm not sure. it seems all fairly the same.
·      As I mentioned in a previous answer, many of our older volunteers are at an age where they are experiencing a great deal of loss, and this has allowed them to also better understand their relationship with grief and life. I haven't experienced many younger people passing, or having to directly deal with the loss of a fellow volunteer so I'm not sure that I have seen any generational differences beyond that which I already described. I would say that the only other experience (my own) being an elder-Millennial, I have a similar way of dealing with grief as my boomer/silent generation volunteers. We have seen many people in our lives pass and therefore are sad, filled with a sense of loss, but also are confronted by the shortness of life and need to value today.
·      I haven't seen any
·      It really depends more on the individual, not on the generation in my experience.
·      none
·      People in their 60s and beyond have a lot better ability to process grief and death, I am finding. I appreciate their wisdom and outlook.
·      I have not noticed any.

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