Grief Work for Healthcare Providers


8 Nursing CE Hours are available for all who complete this course via Nicole Heidbreder RN, BSN, MA who is licensed as a California Board of Nursing Continuing Education Provider #17100


This self-guided course is open to all nurses, doctors, residence, health care staff, and those on the frontlines of care. Funeral directors, mental health professionals, and birth/death doulas are warmly welcome. Scholarships welcome.

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Why grief work for health care providers?

As healthcare providers, we are called to support individuals through recovery, healing, and health.

Yet, we inevitably also hold space for disease, relapse, illness, and death.

How do we process and interpret experiences of loss? Are you experiencing burnout? Compassion fatigue? High stress due to an intensely paced vocation where trauma, sadness, and loss are ever present?


How does the profound experience of holding space for heartache, grief, and sorrow  ~ encountered daily ~ impact our own lives?

How can we engage with grief work in a way that enriches and nourishes?

The questions above are amplified in a time of the Covid-19 pandemic. And yet, even without such a pandemic, they are central to a wise and compassionate approach to supporting our healthcare workers on both personal and professional levels.


 Nicole Heidbreder ~ RN, birth/death doula trainer, and Clinical Instructor with the Johns Hopkins University Birth Companions Program


Amy Wright Glenn ~ hospital chaplain, author, and birth/death doula

co-teach this supportive, inspiring, and transformative self-guided, 10-hour course that supports all healthcare workers everywhere in their grief work.


This training exceeded my expectations and called me into the deep work of navigating my own grief. Amy and Nicole create a space to hold, see, acknowledge, and appreciate the grief carried by healthcare workers and support them through that experience. You deserve the support you need to thrive. You deserve healing and recognition for all the weight you carry.

~ Sydney, Full-Spectrum Doula & ALC, Boston, MA

Grief Work for Healthcare Providers topics include:

Module One ~ Self Assessment Defining grief in an overburdened health care system. Amy and Nicole will focus on grief, burnout, compassionate fatigue, and moral injury. What is grief and how does grief show up on the job? In one’s personal life? How are specific stresses, like the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting and complicating the prior experience moral injury often associated with healthcare work? Amy and Nicole will provide statistics, a comprehensive framework of understanding, and lead participants through a self-assessment meditation wherein individuals can more clearly assess their baseline energy and how grief and overwhelm have transformed their work and life.

Module TwoThe Physiology of Grief Exploring the impact of chronic stress associated with repeated encounters with grief on the human physiology is key. When a person’s nervous system is in fight, flight, freeze, or fawn mode, it is hard to feel and and nourish sustainable self care and empathy for self and others. Amy and Nicole will examine various definitions of self care and highlight how the energy of a courageous connection to our inner lives can be nourished. Self care is the foundation for integrating the grief encountered in healthcare work. How to ensure that self care survives times of chronic stress ~ and how to integrate practices that strengthen our capacity to hold space, while being connected to our inner strength, as we work? Finally, what suggestions for healthcare systems exist to strengthen the foundational supports to ensure health care providers don’t numb out, leave the field due to compassion-fatigue or attrition? How to implement policies that nurture and support empathy?

Module ThreeStrengthening Inner Compassion Showing up with compassion vs. compassion fatigue. Building upon Module 2, Amy and Nicole will continue to explore sustainable models of compassion, especially in high stress environments. Can one show up for others, while maintaining a commitment to self care, in crisis after crisis without becoming numb? How does compassion fatigue impact our collective experience of health care? Amy and Nicole will lead participants through an examination of mindfulness exercises that help recharge an overwhelmed physiology ~ starting and rooted in compassion for one’s own sorrow, loss, grief, and self. For as we know, those that face/ integrate fear and grief, who learn from failure, and continue to nourish faith in the good are able to sustain the energies of self care as they move through crisis and loss.

Module Four ~ Transforming Suffering Transforming suffering, nourishing meaning making, and cultivating courage. In the final module, Amy and Nicole will lead participants through a series of inquiries that enable individuals to “re-open the heart” and find ways to transform their own personal and professional suffering through the conscious approach of holding space ~ being compassionately present to what is ~ and forging one’s path as we make meaning of truly difficult experiences. As we transform our suffering ~ “turn our pain into medicine” as the poet Rumi once wrote ~ we become beacons of courage in difficult times. We inspire others to cultivate their courage as they navigate the unknown. We draw upon the ancestral wisdom of healthcare providers who ennoble us with their example. We become what we can be ~ both personally and professionally ~ and we do this without shutting down or numbing ourselves along the way.

Certificates of Completion issued by the Institute for the Study of Birth, Breath, and Death are offered for all who complete the training/workshop. Participants have open access to complete the training requirements, as long as the course is active on the Institute’s website. Once purchased, participants have life-long access to course materials ~ as long as they are available in this format. 

Nicole and Amy recommend all participants read Holding Space ~ On Loving, Dying, and Letting Go as this book is a source of inspiration for the workshop and will support participants in their journey of grief work.

“This book is like a superhero, showing us how to run bravely toward the darkness and come out the other side as a human being. Amy deserves not just praise for writing in gorgeous, clear prose, but deep thanks for creating a gentle guide we all need for that one thing no one escapes: death.”—Tina Cassidy, Birth  
“Holding Space does just that for each of us. In a clear, intimate voice, Amy Wright Glenn shares her own experience and wisdom and by doing so makes a space for her reader to develop the same. For anyone going through loss, this book will feel like a treasure.”
—Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness and Real Love

“Utilizing stories from her personal life and her experiences as a birth doula and a hospital chaplain, Amy reveals how we can keep our hearts open to both deep sorrow and ecstatic joy in these ‘sacred thresholds.’ You will find wisdom, love, and tenderness on every page of this very special book.”
—Henry Fersko-Weiss, Executive Director of the International End of Life Doula Association, Caring for the Dying 


“All healing is first a healing of the heart.”
~ Carl Townsend

On April 13, 2020 ~ Dr Karen Wyatt, interviewed Amy Wright Glenn and Nicole Heidbreder about their work with birth/death and their “Grief Work for Health Care Providers” course.



Nicole Heidbreder works as a Labor and Delivery and Hospice Nurse in the Washington DC area and has been attending births as a doula for over 15 years here in DC, NYC, San Francisco, Sumatra, Bali, and Uganda.  Currently she also facilitates independent birth doula workshops and trains nursing students as a Clinical Instructor with the Johns Hopkins University Birth Companions Program.  Additionally, she teaches End of Life Doula Workshops for the International End of Life Doula Association (  Through her work in clinical nursing education Nicole was proudly inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honors Society as a Leader in the field of Nursing and she sits on the George Washington University Hospital Ethics Committee. To find out more.