Empty Arms Bereavement

Presentations & Professional Development

Ensuring that healthcare workers are well-trained to support bereaved patients
Empty Arms hosts both large educational events and smaller trainings for professionals who wish to increase their knowledge of how to care for bereaved families with compassion.
Carol McMurrich.jpg
Carol McMurrich

Our director Carol has an undergraduate degree in sociology and psychology, a Master's in Education, and over a dozen years of working firsthand with bereaved families in both the hospital and support group setting. She has provided presentations on grief and loss, ranging from one to six hours to hospital units, university nursing courses, midwifery practices, doula groups, and hospital groups. Whether you are looking to provide a larger training to a diverse group or are simply looking for somebody to provide in-service training to your staff, Carol will work with you to develop a program that will best suit your needs.

Upcoming Trainings

This fall we held compassionate caregiving trainings on 4 different dates, both in person and over Zoom. We will be posting Spring training dates on this site in February 2023, for April/May trainings.

Registration for these programs is now open! Please use the below buttons to first buy a ticket for the length/type of program you plan to attend, and then fill out the brief form so that we know which session you plan to attend. We can’t wait to share what we know with you!

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We are accredited by ANA Massachusetts and NASWMa **

Accreditation means we come with our own contact hours, and you don’t have to do any paperwork to offer your staff continuing education credit.

**Approved by American Nurses Association of Massachusetts, an accredited approver by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation.  Nurses who attend and participate in the entire course will be awarded 6 contact hours.

**Approved for 5.5 Social Work Continuing Education hours for re-licensure, in accordance with 258 CMR. NASW-MA Chapter CE Approval Program Authorization #081105.

“I was engaged at every moment of the presentation. I cannot express just how helpful the information was."

"This truly was an incredible presentation. Moving, powerful, informative, and so important."

"I've been a nurse for 18 years and this was by the far the most detailed and all-encompassing program."

Our current approved course: “Accompanying Parents When a Baby Dies: Developing Your Own Philosophy of Care”

While many of us would rather not think about babies dying, the truth is sometimes they do die. When they do, it is our moral obligation as care providers to usher families through that loss experience. Research is conclusive that when we do this well, our attitudes and communication skills positively impact parents’ decision-making, resilience, and long-term well-being. On the flip side, when we are unsure of our care and lack skills and confidence, research finds that down the road, patients’ grief is exacerbated and their healing is hindered. With so many new nurses in the field, there is an unprecedented need for training and support around perinatal bereavement care, both for the well-being of our patients, but also for the well-being of our staff.

Empty Arms has served nearly a thousand individuals over the past 14 years, and speaker Carol McMurrich carries all those stories with her. Every story involves the intersection of health care with the loss experience. How parents perceive the care they receive from doctors, nurses, midwives, and social workers profoundly affects how they experience the trauma of their loss as it takes place, as well as affects their ability to make good decisions, build resilience, and thrive after discharge.

Empty Arms offers tailored, accredited professional development opportunities to increase your staff’s skills, language, and general fluency and comfort around perinatal bereavement care. With the ability to choose when, where, and how your program is presented, Empty Arms offers the ultimate flexibility so you can gift your staff with the tools they need to thrive while offering bereavement care to families in your facility.

What we offer can best be summed up in the words of Nursing Practice Specialist Beth West of Massachusetts General/ Hospital, who worked with us this fall to plan a January 2022 training with their Labor and Delivery Staff:

Carol McMurrich from Empty Arms Bereavement Support presented a program for our L&D staff nurses here at Massachusetts General hospital. Our audience, we knew, would span a lifetime of experience as staff nurses, from 3 months to 34 years.  We needed a personalized program that would fit the needs of our staff, within our education budget, and one that could capture and hold the attention of staff over 4-5 hours.  Carol over delivered on all three fronts.  From the outset of planning the program, Carol was accommodating and informative and helped us to understand her process.  Further, and more importantly, she helped us to better understand what we needed and wanted to provide for our staff.  When we first met Carol, we honestly were not sure where to focus our educational energies. She guided us, talked about programs she had presented in the past, and encouraged us to complete a needs assessment with our staff. Over the course of many weeks, during which Carol was incredibly generous with her time, we discussed and planned our program. Then, after all of our advertising, with every seat full and just 5 days before the event, we had to switch to an online platform. I was so disappointed and worried the program just wouldn’t be successful.  Carol was the consummate professional, calmed our concerns and she pulled off what was one of the most engaging education days that I have ever been involved in. What was planned to last 4 hours (abbreviated because we thought an online platform would dictate this) stretched to five hours with all the active participation and questions. We could see staff leaning into their screens, raising their virtual hands, and using the chat to ask many questions.  Staff rated the offering with high marks and are asking for Carol to come back to provide more education which we are planning on doing.

This course is as much about helping staff to learn what words and actions help bereaved families as it is an intervention so staff will come away from bereavement work feeling fulfilled by what they have been able to offer someone, rather than walking away feeling traumatized or anxious.

Research has shown what most helps health care providers to be grounded in bereavement work is specific training around bereavement care. This is followed closely by the opportunity to debrief with, connect with, and build a narrative with other staff following a loss, which simply cannot be done when staff is not comfortable talking about loss and its aftermath.

When your staff is grounded in bereavement work, it has an enormous impact on how they experience caring for the bereaved and how they are– or are not– stressed or emotionally harmed in the process. In addition, your patient experience is vastly improved when your staff is skilled and well-informed.

Please consider an Empty Arms training for your staff this year. We are currently booking and look forward to hearing from you!

As a bereaved parent and experienced facilitator of Empty Arms, Carol weaves her own experience and that of many others she has worked with (with permission) to create an intimate, personal presentation with adequate time for participants to share their stories, emotions, and concerns. Knowing the impact educating providers can have on the experience of families experiencing loss, professional trainings are one of Carol’s favorite things to do.

The Problem:

When an unprepared healthcare professional faces a newly bereaved family, both parties suffer. Families do not get high-quality care, and the health care professional is left traumatized by their inability to help. We understand that funding for bereavement training in healthcare settings is often inadequate. We also recognize the essential nature of this type of training.

The Solution:

Research has shown one of the most effective ways to reduce vicarious trauma for perinatal healthcare providers working with loss families is education and preparation. We are proud to present a program that prepares healthcare providers with the how and the why, so that each provider can enter into loss situations with a fuller, richer understanding of how to support a family.

We make our trainings as accessible and affordable as possible for the units who take the time to prioritize this very important work. We have quite a few options for funding and scheduling our trainings.

The Speaker

All of our trainings are taught by Carol McMurrich, our director and lead educator. Carol has been running support groups for 13 years and has been doing bedside work in the hospital for 10 years. Witnessing so many hundreds of families in the midst of loss, combined with hearing them process, reframe, and grow in the aftermath, has given Carol a rich, deep understanding of the diversity of the loss and grief experience. In addition to this first-person experience, Carol is an enthusiastic member of the Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Alliance. As a presenter and participant in their biannual conference, Carol has created connections with the top researchers, bereavement care professionals, and specialized medical professionals in the nation, including Cathi Lammert of Share, Rana Limbo of Resolve through Sharing, Dr Brian Carter, Dr Terri Major-Kincade, and more. As part of a robust national and international community of bereavement care professionals, Carol has some of the deepest networking connections on the East Coast and is grateful to always have many resources when she needs a question answered!

Our teaching schedule is flexible and we come to you when it works for you and your staff. Typically, we begin by finding out what days a good teaching space at your facility is available to reserve and work from there.

Our trainings have contact hours approved for six teaching hours for nursing and 5.5 hours for social workers. It is permissible to shorten the programs and share any portion of the approved content for fewer hours. We find most units are not able to allow the full day required for the full six-hour course, so we work with you to determine how you can get the greatest number of nurses trained and stay within your budget.

Due to scheduling constraints, many units will hire our organization to come for a full day and teach two shorter courses so a greater number of nurses can attend.

Simplest option

Facility Pays

$ 225 an hour
  • Preparation and delivery of tailored presentation
  • Facility pays the invoice for the entire program
  • Nurses can sign up for no cost and attend the program
  • Targeted at the exact population attending

Reimburse Staff

$ 40* per person
  • For facilities without the funds in their budget to fund a program outright
  • Your unit contracts us to present
  • We create a sign-up with individual payment options for you to share with staff.
  • Participants pay a fee and are reimbursed from professional development funds.
  • * for 2-hour presentation, 4-hour presentation is $60 per attendee

Host the Program

$ 0 for program
  • Good for facilities with no budget but want to encourage their nurses to attend.
  • We use your facility as a site to host a training that would be open to nurses, doulas, midwives, who live in your area
  • Participants pay a fee to Empty Arms to attend.