After death care
After death care is a unique service that is offered to every Hummingbird House family following their child’s death. It is also extended to families whose child’s death was due to a medical condition that would have made them eligible to receive our care and support.
After death care involves our specialist interdisciplinary team supporting a family to care for their child following their death. Many families tell us that this time allows them time to breathe, grieve and remain together as they plan and hold ceremony in honour of their child’s life. This may take place onsite at Hummingbird House Brisbane, in a family’s home, or at another community location, and is underpinned by a culturally and spiritually supportive approach.
Families that receive after death care at Hummingbird House Brisbane have the choice of staying in our family accommodation suites. This supports them to stay together, with private access to the Hummingbird Suite – a dedicated space where we care for a child after death. During this time, anyone important to the family or their child is welcome to visit Hummingbird House, as they honour and celebrate their child’s life. This includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and extended family and friends.
For families that wish to take their child’s body home for a vigil or home funeral, our interdisciplinary team can provide them with the information, guidance and support they need. This includes practical care of their child’s body, legal and medical regulations, as well as psychosocial support for siblings and community networks.
Our Family and Community Support team offers grief and bereavement support to every family that receives after death care at Hummingbird House. This support is ongoing, for as long as a family wishes to receive it.
Hummingbird House also provides specialised information, education and planning for after death care, funerals and bereavement to healthcare teams and community stakeholders.
Our approach to after death care
Our model of family-led after death care is founded on four key principles:
We understand that there can be a lot of fear present for families when they try to plan for their child’s end of life care, and that this can extend to the idea of caring for them after they have died. Typically, many people in modern life do not have experience of this kind of care, which as recently as a few generations ago was widespread across many communities and cultures. At Hummingbird House, the invitation for families to be involved (where they choose to be) offers choice, control, and tender ways of navigating the often-disorienting shock of acute grief. We invite families to participate in all aspects of end of life and after death care, supporting and resourcing them every step of the way. We recognize that professional services are best placed in a background, in a supporting role to family to led care.
We believe that knowledge is power. When families are informed of the entire spectrum of options and choices around end of life and (in particular) after death care, they tell us that this helps them to feel empowered.
Every family is unique – and most families choices at this time reflect this. For some families, being informed means they choose to remain at home for end of life care, and then access support to remain at home for a few days afterwards. For other families, whose child died in hospital, being informed leads to choose support to take their child home afterwards, to spend time with their body in familiar surroundings. Some families find that Hummingbird House Brisbane offers them a home away from home while they arrange and perhaps even host a funeral on site.
In addition to our interdisciplinary teams’ specialist knowledge and expertise, we also work closely with a network of trusted funeral service providers who understand that each child and family are unique, and tailor their support accordingly.
As heart-breaking as the experience of caring for someone at the end of their life is, when parents, carers, siblings, grandparents and chosen family are invited to participate and remain close to their child after death (which looks different for different families) – we see significant beneficial impacts on early grief, and a deepening of family care and resilience.
Families regularly tell us that the opportunity to remain involved and with their child in the immediate days after death offers them something they didn’t realize was possible. An approach of intimacy offers families time and space to feel into the profound transition in relationship with their child, precious moments to pause before the next steps.
Our strengths-based approach to family support highlights and uplifts the innate resources, connections and capabilities in each family we care for. Academic research and professional practice confirm that these threads of care and connection, both within and between family members play a central role in sustaining us through life’s most challenging times; and support us when we are faced with relearning the world in bereavement.