Seeing a Bigger Picture
Family and support are severely needed when a loved one dies. But sometimes, people need something more. That’s where Joe Marek comes in.
The bereavement coordinator at Mercyhealth Hospice can provide people with comfort and care for 13 months, sometimes longer, after their loved one dies from a terminal illness.
“It happens every day,” says Marek, who’s been a pastor for 40 years. “I have about 500 bereavement contacts who I work with. That results in me providing follow-up in the form of phone calls, mailings, support groups, celebration of life services or whatever I can do to help.”
Marek is that proverbial shoulder to cry on as he guides families through the grieving process. He makes roughly 2,000 phone calls a year to check up on people.
“I realized at a pretty young age that I was not afraid of death,” Marek says. “My parents are that way, and we were just strong believers in something other than the earthly life. My sister is a social worker and my brother has gone down the road of caregiving, so I was surrounded with people who saw a big picture of what life is.”
The first year after a loved one’s death is always the hardest, Marek says.
“Some families might not want to talk to me, but if they do want to talk, I’ll put together a plan to follow up with that person for the whole year,” Marek says. “It’s like a roller coaster, because they can be fine one day, but when Christmas or a birthday comes, they bottom out. My job is to make sure every person has that personal care.”
Marek believes working in bereavement is what he was meant to do. He’s able to share some of his blessings and pass them to families in desperate need.
“I feel like I’ve been blessed with some grounding, so I use that grounding to reach out to others and help them professionally and deliberately through the grieving process,” he says. “I want to get them on the road that says, ‘The loss I’ve experienced is not the end of my life.’ I’m able to help people reconcile and move ahead with the rest of their lives, and that’s very appealing to me.”