Memorial Hermann Moments

Heather’s Story: Creating a Lasting Legacy Through Pediatric Hospice

By Heather Eppelheimer

Their heads may be buried in their devices, but children notice when parents are sad or talking quietly while a family member is ill.

I know this from personal experience. 

When I was only 12, I distinctly remember writing in my journal, “I don’t know why, but I think my dad is dead. I’m never going to see him again.”

And I never did.

He had passed, and when my family didn’t tell me all of what happened, I felt so alone. Those moments changed my life.

In fact, they’re part of what led me to my career as a Certified Child Life specialist with Memorial Hermann Hospice Pediatric Program.

Made for the job

This work isn’t for everyone, but I have a big heart and passion for grief and bereavement care. It’s my dream job—and one for which I’m uniquely suited.

After losing my dad, and growing up in hospitals due to my own chronic health issues, I know something many don’t: Kids already think about death and dying.

Part of my job is encouraging kids to talk about it. I share my personal experiences and help guide families through difficult conversations that are important for little ones.

I’m available to families up to 13 months after a patient passes away, so I have the privilege of being able to continue to talk with parents, siblings and any other kids in the home.

I often speak to these loved ones about the legacy of the patient and the memories which were made, no matter how brief his or her life.

It makes me think of my own legacy—what I want to put into the universe, and how I want to be remembered. Often that’s not tangible things, but instead sharing experiences and funny stories.

It’s about creating special moments.

What death has taught me about life

Working in hospice care, I realize how short life is. It puts everything in perspective.

To pay tribute to the patients I’ve helped, I make a keychain or necklace for myself using beads or charms with patients’ initials or things that were special to them.

I am so grateful that people have allowed me to be a part of some of the hardest and most sacred moments of their lives. And for the special moments we’ve created together.

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