Helping Others Grieve: How a Patient’s Wife Shares Her Knowledge and Experience
Jami Leahy lost her husband, Scott, long before she could have ever expected. Their three boys were still young. There was so much more they hoped to share. And Scott wasn’t the kind of guy who would give up easily.
“He would always bounce back, and he was always fighting his disease up to the very end,” said Jami.
Throughout Scott’s battle against a rare type of neuroendocrine cancer, he refused to let the disease hold him back. He continued coaching his sons’ baseball and soccer teams and remained active as a Scouts leader. Meanwhile, he sought out clinical trials and traveled to try out various treatments. When those treatments were not successful, the Leahy family began to think about their other options for care.
Choosing Inpatient Hospice Care
Most people receive hospice care at home, because that is where they feel most comfortable. Home is where Jami’s mother received hospice care before she passed away in 2007. But as Scott neared the end of his life, he made the decision that he did not want to pass away in his family home because of concern about the memories that would leave for Jami and their children. In May of 2017, when Scott opted for care with Pikes Peak Hospice & Palliative Care (PPHPC), he and his family spent the last five days of his life at our inpatient unit at Penrose Hospital.
PPHPC was able to provide the family a large room with a beautiful view of majestic Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods. Jami says it was a comfortable space where she and the boys — ages 6, 10, and 13 at the time — basically “camped out” and shared precious memories.
Among those memories is the way the staff at PPHPC took the time to teach the boys how to help care for their dad. Jami says they adopted a “pitch in and help” attitude, and it helped the whole family be able to work together to make Scott comfortable until the very end. She says the boys gained an increased level of empathy because of this experience, and in fact, her oldest son is now interested in attending medical school because of his experience helping care for his dad.
Finding the Right Grief Support
After Scott passed away on May 16, 2017, Jami sought out grief support services to help her navigate this difficult time. She began by attending groups at PPHPC but was usually the youngest in the group, and she desired to connect with others who were experiencing grief at a similar stage in life. She found a group for young widows at the Heartlight Center in Denver, but found it difficult to travel from Colorado Springs to Denver on a regular basis. In the same spirit of her late husband, Jami didn’t give up easily. She found a solution by creating one — and helping others in the process.
Instead of frequent long trips to Denver, Jami started her own support group for younger widows in Colorado Springs. The group started at the YMCA three years ago and now regularly meets on Zoom with sessions of four to nine people.
People often choose to handle their grief quietly and discreetly, but Jami has learned that more transparency and openness can help us process our grief.
“I believe coping with grief is something that should be talked about openly, and I have tried to normalize grief to help others through the process,” she said. “I have learned a lot, and if I can share with someone to help them, I want to help.”
Jami now shares the knowledge and wisdom attained through her own experience with grief to help others on their path through a similar difficult experience.