Death-notification training covers how to bear bad newsArea News
-- When a person dies, it sends waves of sadness, grief, despair into the person’s circle of loved ones, especially when the death is sudden or unexpected, as with a suicide, homicide or traffic accident.
By: Debbie Griffin, Pierce County Herald
When a person dies, it sends waves of sadness, grief, despair into the person’s circle of loved ones, especially when the death is sudden or unexpected, as with a suicide, homicide or traffic accident.
Survivors suffer to be sure, but what about the one person who has the heavy burden of informing that person’s family that their loved one had died? The one who stands awkwardly on a doorstep, looks into concerned faces and has to say the words, however difficult that may be.
The River Falls-based St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program, in partnership with the River Falls Police Department, hosts a free training session for all the different people who must deliver death notifications.
Death Notification Training takes place 8:30 a.m. to noon May 31 at the River Falls Public Library, 140 Union St.
The specialized target group includes law enforcement, medical examiners, clergy, doctors, as well as social services staff and volunteers who support grieving families. Presenters will include a Minneapolis homicide sergeant with 30 years’ experience; an emergency-services chaplain who serves the Minneapolis Police Department; and someone who is both a suicide survivor and grief counselor.
The flier advertising the session says it will provide the audience with a framework for making compassionate death notifications. It will outline how teams work to reduce long-term trauma by responding with immediate and long-term support.
Attendees will come away with examples and tools for engaging and understanding those impacted by a sudden death.
SCVRJP Director Kris Miner said the training is part of the center’s ongoing effort to support sudden-death survivors with compassion, and, “We’re also trying to help our first-line responders.”
She says community support, as well as a grant from the Otto Bremer foundation, enables them to offer the session for free. By late last week, about 40 people had registered for the session.
River Falls Police Chief Roger Leque said, “We know these are difficult tasks that law enforcement and other individuals get involved in. We also know how difficult it is for the families involved.”
Leque said the more training and practice people have, the better. He mentions the community-wide forum organized last year by SCVRJP and the RFPD, one result of which was the collaborative production of the Grieving Families Guide -- a small booklet of information that assists families impacted by sudden-death trauma.
“Anytime we can raise awareness on these kinds of things it’s beneficial,” said the chief.
Each person attending the session will receive a copy of the guide and learn more about SCVRFP’s program of Restorative Response, geared toward survivors.
The Web site www.officer.com gives insight into the issue of death notification.
It cites examples of suicide, homicide, the pre-dawn crash of an 18-wheeled truck. About 45,000 people are killed each year in car accidents; 32,000 people take their own life; about 17,000 are murdered.
“Death notification is considered by police officers to be the least desirable job they have,” says the site. “It is also the one for which they are the least trained.”
The site says notifications are physically and emotionally exhausting. Officers must find the right words, cope with the family’s emotion and respond with empathy. If done incorrectly, it induces further trauma for the family and could leave the wrong impression about the officer.
Officer.com also says most people can remember their first notification, in detail, even years later.
It advises the main, important protocol for a death notification: Do it in person, in time, in pairs, in plain language and with compassion. The site and its information advise strongly against notification by phone.
Local chief Leque said often when a family member dies away from home, the authorities in that place call local authorities so that one of them can travel in person to the family’s home.
Those interested to learn more about death notification and dealing with sudden-death trauma can register for the session via e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org ; phone at 715-425-1100; or fax at 715-425-1112.
Learn more about SCVRFP online at www.scvrfp.org .