University of Chicago Medical Center hosts annual Tall Ship Family Retreat Day

University of Chicago Medical Center hosts annual Tall Ship Family Retreat Day

June 12, 2008

More than 120 individuals from 25 families will participate in the University of Chicago Medical Center's Tall Ship Family Retreat Day on Saturday, June 14. This will be the fifth annual memorial service held on a ship sailing for those who have experienced the death of a loved one.

Sponsored by the Medical Center and sailing from Chicago's Navy Pier, the Tall Ship event is part of the CompanionShip Program, which provides support for families who have lost a loved one. Referrals to the program, which began in January 2003, come from the University of Chicago Medical Center and the community--area schools, churches, insurance companies, the Chicago 311 help line and the Internet.

"The CompanionShip is helping my son with the loss of his father," said Selena Cameron, a Chicago mother. "The overall group experience was so wonderful. It helped me to understand what my son was going through. We need this group so much."

The program offers support groups that meet once a week for eight weeks in the spring and fall, and monthly support meetings during the summer and winter. These enable families who have experienced the death of a loved one to come together to share a meal and then divide into small support groups, based on age, to discuss loss, memories, feelings and how they are coping.

There are seven components of the CompanionShip Bereavement Program:

  • Grief support for children, teens, and families;
  • The bereavement psychosocial consult service;
  • Providing knowledgeable advise and consultation to hospital staff and the community regarding bereavement issues;
  • The multidisciplinary pediatric bereavement committee;
  • In-services for pediatric staff, nurses, medical students, and residents;
  • Condolence card program; and
  • Perinatal loss support group.

The memorial service, held aboard the ship, includes a Hawaiian lei ceremony. In Hawaii, the lei symbolizes admiration for loved ones and esteem for oneself. They are made and given for many occasions and special ceremonies in Hawaii, whether it is for school achievement, church and religious activities, memorial services or just to express warmth and friendship. Hawaiian leis mark important events in a person's life, such as marriages, birthdays and funerals. There are leis of grief, leis of love, leis of marriage, of dying and of birthing.

Tall Ship Family Retreat Day began in 2004. This year's event concludes with a family picnic in Hyde Park for all participants following the memorial service on Lake Michigan.