Grief center helps Baptist team members deal with tremendous losses

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The next story in our series about how the Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Good Grief helped Baptist team members overcome the loss of loved ones features Brionne Beckman, a senior administrative services specialists for the Baptist Health Services Group.

Brionne placed her mother in the Baptist Reynolds Hospice House to ensure her comfort during her final days. After her mother’s death, Brionne took advantage of the free grief counseling services at the Center for Good Grief.

Brionne’s mother had Huntington’s disease, an inherited brain disorder that results in the progressive loss of both mental abilities and physical control. Symptoms include mood swings, depression, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech, and involuntary movements. Every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the disease. Presently, there is no cure.

When Brionne was a junior in high school, her mother was placed in an assisted living facility. Her mother lived there for eight years before they moved her to a nursing home one hour away from home.

In February 2012, while her mother was a patient at Baptist Memphis, a hospitalist told Brionne’s family that her mother probably had only a few weeks left.

“He asked us if we had considered hospice,” Brionne said. “We hadn’t thought about it, we didn’t really think it was an option until that point, and that led us to the Baptist Reynolds Hospice House.”

Brionne was grateful to have her mother closer to home and said the facility was great, but more importantly, the staff was very attentive and caring.

“They were able to give my mom the care she really needed at that point, and it lifted a big burden off our shoulders,” Brionne said. “That was a blessing because usually patients with Huntington’s are never given the opportunity to go into hospice.

“What’s funny is she had this disease for such a long time, you think that you’re prepared and a prayer that I often prayed was ‘God take her out of her suffering, I don’t want her to suffer any longer.’ When you pray that prayer you have to be ready for that prayer to be answered. So you think you’re ready, but it felt like it wasn’t enough time. You never can be fully prepared for loss.”

Angela Hamblen, director of the Center for Good Grief, said this is a common feeling for those dealing with loss after a long term illness.

“Grief comes in many forms and it impacts people differently,” Angela said. “Our hospice team does incredible work helping patients and families, but even then we still always want one more day.”

Although she had prepared herself, the grieving process was still difficult for Brionne.

“I went to the Center for Good Grief to make sure I was on track with my grieving,” Brionne said. “Grief is all over the board, you have your ups and downs and highs and lows. At times you think you’re getting along just fine, and at others you’re not sure if you’re going to make it. So I wanted to make sure everything I was feeling was normal.”

Brionne said she got through the hardest times because she had such a strong support system in her family and her faith.

“I don’t know how I could have gotten through this loss without them,” Brionne said. “And that’s something the Center for Good Grief can be for someone, a great support system during a time of need.”

Brionne recommends all her Baptist coworkers donate to the center and to Camp Good Grief.

“Everyone deals with grief, that’s something that nobody gets to escape from. Everyone goes about it differently, and the center is a source of help for our family, our friends, and our community. It’s important for people dealing with loss to know they’re not alone, they are normal in how they are dealing with grief. That is reason enough to donate, just to help your family, friends, and community when they are in need.”

Center for Good Grief team members appreciate all donations made by members of the Baptist family.

“We are so grateful to each Baptist employee who has stepped forward to help support Camp Good Grief,” Angela said. “Since all our services are free of charge, we cannot do this without donations. So, thank you to all who have given – you are helping to provide grief support to so many in our Baptist community and the Mid-South.”

Since opening in 2010, the Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Good Grief has provided free comprehensive bereavement services to individuals and families, including annual camps for children, teens, and adults.

Individual donations and grants funded by the Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation help keep the center open. In addition, every year, local businesses come together to host the Camp Good Grief 5K, which benefits Camp Good Grief, the Mid-South’s first bereavement camp for children.

This year’s race will be held on Sunday, Oct. 5 at Memorial Park Cemetery. If you’re looking to run a 5K and/or support the Center for Good Grief, please consider signing up for the race at

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