Death-notification training tackles tough topicLaw-enforcement officers, emergency responders, clergy, coroners and counselors comprised the group of 53 people who attended a May 31 session at the River Falls Public Library to learn about delivering grievous news.
Law-enforcement officers, emergency responders, clergy, coroners and counselors comprised the group of 53 people who attended a May 31 session at the River Falls Public Library to learn about delivering grievous news.
All attendees shared a possible job duty in common: Telling people that their loved one died suddenly.
A first-time occurrence in River Falls, the locally based St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice program and the River Falls Police Department co-sponsored the half-day session, with help from an Otto Bremer Foundation grant.
Speakers included Minneapolis Police Department Sergeant Scott Larson, Emergency Services Chaplin Dr. Jeff Stewart and Grief Counselor Julie Chalmers from Survivor Resources.
They helped the audience understand key techniques for delivering news of a sudden and traumatic death.
The team shared experiences from years of work, including the I-35 bridge collapse.
Attendees received copies of the publication produced by the SCVRJP last year, after a community meeting about the prevention and effects of suicide and sudden death.
The big group discussed ways to help affected families and other survivors, producing as a result the “Grieving Families Guide.”
The booklet serves as a resource for families immediately following notification of a sudden death and enables the person doing the notification to offer some kind of help.
The guide lists several resources for grieving individuals and gives them an immediate place for keeping records.
The publication contains tips and information for navigating the days and years following a tragic death. Specific sections include a list of who to notify, dealing with the holidays, helping children.
Producers of the “Grieving Families Guide” gathered input from local agencies and modeled the book after a similar publication produced by the Minnesota State Patrol.
At the session in River Falls, a combination of 12 agencies took 156 copies of the booklet, including River Falls Ambulance Service Director Jeff Rixmann. He planned to put them in each of the service’s vehicles.
He has coordinated with SCVRJP to provide his staff with additional training on using and distributing the guide.
SCVRJP Director Kris Miner also talked to the group, filling them in on what her organization has been doing to address the issues surrounding a sudden and tragic death.
She explained Restorative Response, which includes the guide booklet, trained volunteers reaching out to survivors, the quarterly six-week-long Talking Circles sessions, a monthly support group that meets the 3rd Thursday of every month, and workshops on how to deal with trauma.
Attendees included people from the Pierce and St. Croix County Sheriff’s office; plus police departments, ambulance services and coroners’ offices in River Falls, Ellsworth, Prescott, New Richmond, Polk County, Spring Valley, Pepin County, Roberts, North Hudson and Hennepin County; as well as chaplains from First Covenant Church, Eau Claire and Polk County, plus WestCAP.
Miner gathered feedback about the session, later sharing some of the thoughts:
“Very informative and useful info.”
“I have never been offered a training like this and appreciate the opportunity to learn more on the topic.”
“I learned that silence is OK.”
For more information about the SCVRJP and its programs, or the “Grieving Families Guide,” call Miner at 715-425-1100.