Help for Donor Families
How Donation Works
If you and your family are new to donation and have questions about how the process works, click here for the answers. In addition to helping you learn about how organ and tissue donation can save and improve lives, Gift of Life Michigan has many services to help you and the rest of your family cope, grieve, understand and - if you wish - become an advocate of donation after your loved one has selflessly given the ultimate gifts.
You are special
Family members of donors are special to Gift of Life so we work hard to support and help you during your grieving process and beyond. We offer follow-up resources in an attempt to meet your needs and provide opportunities for volunteering.
The Michigan Donor Family Advisory Council donated a bench to honor organ, eye and tissue donors statewide.
It was placed in the memorial garden at our Ann Arbor headquarters.
What we offer includes:
- An opportunity to create a quilt square to honor your family member. Each original patch will be used to make one of dozens of donor quilts displayed at events and memorials statewide to spread the message of organ donation. > View the quilts and read donor stories.
- A Donate Life logo for use with published obituaries and funeral materials.
- An opportunity to become involved with the Michigan Donor Family Council, a support system for family members of organ and tissue donors.
- Memorial or other contributions to the Michigan Donor Family Council should be sent to: Michigan Donor Family Council, c/o Barbara Gerber, 250 Helen, Trenton, MI 48183. Contribution envelopes are available upon request. The council also has scholarships available for donor family members.
- Donor families will be invited to an annual ceremony for the past year’s donors that includes a memorial photo slide show. Each donor’s name also is read to honor them personally.
- Rose planting ceremonies at hospitals across the state to honor donors and their families.
- An opportunity to serve as a liaison to the Donor Family Advisory Committee, which acts as an advocacy arm of Gift of Life Michigan. The committee was created in 1992 by six donor families who worked with Gift of Life to help provide support for other donor families and promote awareness. The group today has a broad spectrum of families of organ, eye and tissue donors.
- Information and resources regarding the Transplant Games, held in a different city every other year.
Writing to your loved one’s recipients:Many donor families want to reach out to their loved one’s recipient or recipients. Some want to meet them in person and share bits of information about the donor. For many, learning that their loved one’s organs, eyes or tissue changed or saved a life is extremely validating and can help with grief and provide a sense of hope.We highly encourage contact between donor families and their recipients, who might want to say thank you but are reluctant to reach out on their own. This can be done at any time after the transplant has taken place.
Because of patient confidentiality laws, the first step in the process involves writing a note or letter that Gift of Life will deliver on your behalf. If the recipient wishes to have future contact, he or she will respond through Gift of Life.
To meet your recipients, we ask that you’ve first established some contact through correspondence, then both of you must complete an authorization form. To receive a copy of this form, e-mail Jean Frey.
If you aren’t sure what to say, send a simple “thinking of you” card, ask them how they’re doing and wait for a response.
Guidelines for initiating contact:
Share the story of your loved one and feel free to give general information about occupations, interests, etc. Don’t include any identifying information, such as your last name, city, employer or name of the hospital where your family member donated.
On a separate piece of paper, list your full name, your loved one’s name, address and phone number. This will enable Gift of Life staff to pass your correspondence on to your family member’s recipients.
Mail your correspondence to:
Gift of Life Michigan
c/o Jean Frey
3861 Research Park Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
Key laws governing organ and tissue donation and the Michigan Organ Donor Registry
Uniform Anatomical Gift Law/Act
Determination of Death Act
Grieving is a complicated process, which everyone deals with differently. For some, spending time with others who also are in a period of bereavement can be helpful. For general grief counseling, Hospice of Michigan holds support group meetings statewide. Call 888.247.5181 to find a group near you.
Bereavement Resources & Support Groups:
Support groups and reading materials:
- Compassionate Friends: This organization offers support, friendship and understanding to parents and siblings grieving the loss of a child. Contact: 877.969.0010.
- Living with Loss: This magazine is an excellent resource for those who are grieving.