close-up of hands passing an offering box

The Honor Project

The UCSF Neuro-Oncology staff routinely deals with serious illness and death. The Honor Project was designed by Rosemary Rossi, MSW as a meaning-centered team intervention to address the loss and grief we feel when our patients die.

When notified of a death, the team member pauses and mindfully writes the name of the person on a card and places it on the “altar,” a decorative shelf mounted in a staff-only area of the clinic. Team members often personalize the cards.

On the fourth Thursday afternoon of each month we stop our work and join together to read the names aloud. We share stories, memories, tears, laughter, and a moment of silence for each person we came to know.

The team is led in meditation or silent contemplation of a poem or relevant passage. Chocolate* is offered to one another “to ease the bitterness of death and remind us of the sweetness of life.” We listen to a closing song and the monthly ritual ends with a group hug. Patient families are notified that we have honored their loved one in this special way.

The staff gathers for a bonfire bi-annually, at the spring and fall equinox. The cards with the names of the deceased are once again read aloud before being honored with song and released into the fire. All staff are invited to participate in The Honor Project.

To learn more, or for support on implementation at your own institution, contact Rosemary Rossi (rosemary.rossi@ucsf.edu).

Additional Resources

  • 2018 Society for Neuro-Oncology Meeting (Poster Presentation)
  • "Natural, Normal and Necessary: Addressing Grief & Celebrating Life Through the UCSF Neuro-Oncology Honor Project" (Thesis Presentation by Anya Zimmerman-Smith and Kaitlyn Paulsen; Thesis Website by Anya Zimmerman-Smith)

 


* Chocolate generously donated by Dandelion Chocolate.