Foundations > Grief Watch/Tear Soup
The program now known as Grief Watch, had its beginning in the pioneering work with grieving parents undertaken by Pat Schwiebert, RN, and Dr. Paul Kirk, MD at the Oregon Health Sciences University in the late 1970s. Dr. Kirk, Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at OHSU, had begun specializing in the care of pregnant mothers who had experienced the loss of an infant, through miscarriage or complications during the birthing process or shortly thereafter. Ms. Schwiebert, working as a childbirth instructor, but with experience as a hospice nurse, shared Dr. Kirk’s interest in helping parents who were grieving the loss of their infant children.
They created a program under the auspices of the Oregon Health Sciences University Foundation called Perinatal Loss and wrote two books together, “When Hello Means Goodbye,” and “Still to Be Born.” In 1990 when the OHSU Foundation decided to “spin off” some of its smaller programs, Perinatal Loss became a part of Metanoia Peace Community United Methodist Church, Inc., a non-profit corporation.
The interest of the enterprise expanded to include helping not only those who experienced a perinatal loss, put persons suffering any kind of loss. Thus was born “Grief Watch” as an umbrella program, with Perinatal Loss as but one part of a larger whole. Over the years more books have been written to meet particular needs, and Perinatal Loss and Grief Watch have developed other materials including audio tapes, video tapes, birth/death announcement cards, Certificates of Life, ceramic urns, and ceramic keepsakes—all designed primarily out of Pat Schwiebert’s experience of working directly with grieving persons. New resources are created when it is determined that a particular product will help to comfort the bereaved, validate their loss, or educate people about the grieving process. The resources are offered at low cost through a mail order catalogue and are widely distributed not only to individuals but to hospitals and other institutional customers.
Over the past 25 years Pat has co-founded and has been the professional liaison for The Compassionate Friends of Greater Portland, “Brief Encounters” a local group for grieving parents of pregnancy loss, Suicide Bereavement Support, and the Portland Chapter of Parent of Murdered Children and Other Survivors of Homicide. More information about Grief Watch and Perinatal Loss is available on the world-wide web at www.griefwatch.com.
A major milestone for Grief Watch came in 1999 with the publication of Tear Soup, a full color, hard bound storybook designed for general audiences and based upon the premise that grief comes to us not only when someone we love dies, but anytime we lose something that has had meaning to us. In other words, grief should not be viewed as an uncommon or rare emotion in our lives. For many persons, however, grief is treated like an unwelcome guest, soon to be shown to the door. Pat believes that if we name it (grief) claim it (I’m grieving) we can then grow from the experience and become better prepared to help ourselves and others when big losses do occur.
Tear Soup is the product of all the lessons Pat has learned over the years from her “teachers”, the silent and not so silent grievers who were willing to share their stories with her. The book has received strong critical acclaim from persons working with the bereaved and it is now in its second printing.
Currently assisting Pat Schwiebert with the Grief Watch enterprise are
several members of Pat’s extended family and members of the Metanoia
church. Pat, her son and co-author Chuck DeKlyen, and Taylor Bills (the
illustrator) are currently working on their next book, Ivy, The Baby Born
With Two Wings. You’ll want to check the Grief
Watch website from time to time to see what other new products they
have developed to help the grieving world.