Thoughts on Life and Grief

U-M Health System recognizes Grief Awareness Week May 10-16

When six members of the U-M Survival Flight crew died in a plane crash in 2007, the U-M Health System was dealing with grief on a large scale and put together a team to help employees through the grieving process.

Under the guidance of Lisbeth Harcourt, LMSW, Lung Transplant Program and Transplant Cumulative Grief Committee chair, a grief support group began offering grief lectures, flower planting at the crash memorial site, and social events for Transplant Center staff to grieve and share together. Out of that experience, a need for more grief awareness and assistance began to take shape at UMHS.

“Grief Awareness Week grew out of those early efforts that worked toward acknowledging the difficult work we do in our transplant department, which can often involve patient loss,” says Sue Sefansky, LMSW, Office of Decedent Affairs coordinator. “While working on programs to help the transplant team cope with the loss of so many members of their transplant family, we realized that there were many areas in the hospital that deal with loss on a fairly frequent basis. We looked at grief awareness events held at other institutions and began gathering resources to plan even more events here for a broader audience.


Grief Awareness Week 
The U-M Health System Grief Awareness Week is May 10-16. Most activities are focused specifically for UMHS faculty and staff, but some are also open to the community. Windows in the University Hospital, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and the Frankel Cardiovascular Center will be transformed into Grief Walls from May 11 to May 15.

The Grief Wall is a place for faculty, staff, patients and visitors to express their grief. Using paint markers on the windows, people can share their thoughts, emotions and coping strategies.

“The wall is very engaging for everyone,” says Harcourt. “When we first did a Grief Wall, it was quickly apparent that so many people were interacting with the wall. They wrote notes, took pictures and took the time to reflect.”

What are your words?
While the Grief Walls are located in the hospitals, here is our virtual wall. Use the comments section to share your thoughts. It’s important to focus on continuing to live life while processing grief. What are your thoughts on grief? Can you list six words that come to mind?

Take the next step:


For more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including a #1 ranking in Michigan and national rankings in many specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.