Tidewell Hospice Unveils First of Three New Grief Centers

Florida-based Tidewell Hospice recently opened doors to a new bereavement center in its home state. Though plans to renovate the former Ellenton Hospice House were long in the works, a growing need for community bereavement support during the pandemic helped to push forward construction on the revamped space, now the Tidewell Family Grief Center.

Through the center, Tidewell Hospice will provide one-on-one sessions with counselors, group therapies and educational resources to families throughout the Manatee and Sarasota counties in Florida experiencing the loss of a loved one, regardless of whether the deceased was a patient.

Tidewell Hospice is owned by parent company Empath Health, which merged with Stratum Health in February 2019, joining forces to offer a full continuum of home- and community-based care. Establishing a dedicated grief support center has been an effort several years in the making, according to Callie Weber, operational director of adult grief services at Tidewell Hospice.


“We’ve been feeling like grief really needs a spotlight in terms of the attention it gets. It’s a need that not only our hospice families have, but also our community has through various losses,” said Weber. “We felt that through having centers where people had a healing place to feel understood and supported in their grief journey. We’ve always provided complimentary grief support for our families and for the community, but this is a space designed for folks in grief specifically.”

Services at the center, located in Ellenton, Fla., will be provided at no cost to families and caregivers, financed in part to the hospice’s philanthropic arm. Renovations to the 4,000-square-foot facility were supported by a $1.1 million grant from the Tidewell Foundation.

Tidewell Hospice serves patients across four counties of Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota in Florida. The hospice provides bereavement services to more than 8,000 individuals each year, experiencing a rise in demand for grief support as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation.


The deadly virus has claimed more than 691,500 lives across the country, according to recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The pandemic was part of the impetus to move forward on the center, with Florida among the regions hardest hit by the virus. More than 53,500 lives have been lost to COVID-19 in the Sunshine State since the outbreak began, according to a recent Florida Health Department report.

“The need for a grief-focused center has always been there, but with COVID-19, it forced an added grief and loss component to our world,” Weber said. “We’ve had an uptick in our referrals for grief support, and they’ve often been more complicated during the pandemic with loved ones not able to be with the person or see them when they die. Ultimately, it has complicated grieving, causes disenfranchised grief and has folks carrying a lot of shame, guilt and tough feelings around COVID losses.”

Prior to launching the center, the hospice provider assessed where demand for bereavement care was growing, recognizing a “very high demand in the community” for children’s grief support, according to Weber. The grief center expands upon TideWell Hospice’s children’s bereavement services, called Blue Butterfly, which provides support to youth from 5- to 18-years-old who have experienced the loss of a parent, sibling or other person.

The facility features outdoor spaces such as a basketball court, butterfly gardens, a pond and a labyrinth. These areas are designed for both adult and child activities including Tai Chi classes, yoga and meditation, among others. Indoors features chat and coffee rooms, and spaces for group and individual therapies.

Key features of the building were creating a space for interactivity and artistic expression as a varied and holistic approach to grief support programming, according to Ken Kinzie, vice president of grief education and support services at Tidewell Hospice.

The grief center is the first of three in the pipeline, according to Kinzie, who told Hospice News that Tidewell Hospice anticipates opening grief centers in each of its four-county service areas in a growing effort to expand community bereavement support. This effort includes extending grief support to staff feeling a heavy brunt of loss during the pandemic, Kinzie stated. In addition to a different approach and model of community support with the center, COVID-19 support groups for staff were recently rolled out as well.

The center currently is offering virtual programming and individual services, hoping to expand with group and in-person therapies by November should it be safe to resume, according to Kinzie.

“It’s educating the community that grief and loss are much different than what people think,” Kinzie told Hospice News. “We’ve seen a tremendous impact from COVID in and around our community, and we’re doing a lot of staff support not just for our own organization, but other health care staff. We’ve had our health care partners ask us if we can help their staff because of burnout and compassion fatigue as they see more patients die and more families lose loved ones.”

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