A Daughter Finds Comfort in Father's Hospice Care & Strength in Grief

Grief support

Julie Parrott was daddy’s girl — an only child. She remembers her father, Dave, as the most kind and gentle man with a sense of humor “that would get him a sideway look sometimes.” Dave was an historian who participated in reenactments of the Lewis and Clark expedition and volunteered at Fort Atkinson State Park in Nebraska. “That’s where you’d find him several weekends over the summer months,” says Julie. “It was his happy place.”

Though Dave had been in declining health, Julie says he hid it very well. In May of 2021, she realized he needed assistance and he moved to Amelia Senior Living in Council Bluffs. Not long after, he was taken to the ER with a suspected UTI. “A CT scan showed he was full of cancer and likely had only weeks to live. I had to decide immediately whether to treat him or choose hospice care. I chose [EveryStep] hospice.”

Julie knew she had made the right choice. “The [staff] was wonderful. They reassured and comforted me. Dad passed away on July 18, 2021.”

During her grief, Julie remembers EveryStep Hospice’s Sandie Savage-Steffes reaching out. “I’m so glad she did,” says Julie.

The bereavement counselor for the EveryStep Hospice team in Council Bluffs, Sandie met with Julie and invited her to a grief support group. “Sandie has a very comforting personality. She has a way of making you feel welcome and safe,” says Julie. “She also shared her own story which made me feel like she truly understood how we were all feeling in our time of grief.

“We read a book called ‘Understanding Your Grief’. This helped me tremendously. It helped me understand why I was feeling the things I was feeling and ways to cope with those feelings. Also, being among other people who were also struggling with the loss of a loved one was very helpful. Sharing stories and listening to others made me realize I am not alone in this journey.”

Julie has shared the coping mechanisms she’s learned in grief support to help others. “I had a friend say, ‘why am I fine one second and the next I’m sobbing uncontrollably?’ I explained that she was likely experiencing a grief burst. They come out of nowhere. One tiny fleeting thought can send you over that edge. And it’s perfectly normal. And it’s okay if you’re not okay. You’ll get through this. I’ve learned so much about myself throughout this journey. Sandie taught me that this is my grief journey and mine alone. No two people will grieve the same and it takes as long as it takes. There’s no time limit.”

While Dave was in EveryStep Hospice care, the Council Bluffs team and staff at Amelia Senior Living arranged for him to make a trip to Fort Atkinson one last time. “They had a little ceremony honoring him and let him fire the cannon one last time. That was his thing. He loved making a big boom! It truly was a wonderful experience. Sandie and dad’s nurses have really made a huge impact on my life. I’m very grateful.”

EveryStep Hospice helps those living with a serious illness make the best out of every day. EveryStep Hospice is Iowa's oldest and largest non-profit, community-based hospice provider. Part of what makes EveryStep Hospice special is our commitment to helping our patients find quality of life on their terms. Sometimes this means fulfilling wishes and create lasting memories for patients and their families. Fulfillment of wishes is made possible through donations to the EveryStep Foundation.

Grief support groups are hosted at EveryStep Hospice locations in seven Iowa communities and at the EveryStep Grief & Loss Services office (home of Amanda the Panda) in West Des Moines. EveryStep Hospice bereavement counselors are available to meet with families or visit by phone. These services are available to anyone. The counselor can provide families with information or simply lend a friendly ear.

If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946 or complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form here. EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.