Kristen Bell Reflects on Grieving a Loved One as She Praises Frontline Workers' 'Tireless Work'

"More than words of gratitude, I want to make sure they are seeing tangible rewards for their acts of service," she tells PEOPLE about frontline heroes

Kristen Bell
Kristen Bell. Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

Kristen Bell has a special message for healthcare workers who are on the frontlines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'd like to say I'm so grateful you are finally getting the recognition you deserve," she tells PEOPLE about frontline heroes providing care during the pandemic. "I am in awe of the sacrifices you have made."

The star, 40, adds that "more than words of gratitude, I want to make sure they are seeing tangible rewards for their acts of service. That can take many shapes. It might mean donating money to help send their kid to college or dropping off a coffee. Their tireless work deserves it all."

Bell knows firsthand the significance of healthcare workers and their tremendous efforts to change lives, after witnessing her mom Lorelei work as a nurse.

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"I learned how empowering it is to care for someone else and the importance of recognizing when you have to put others before yourself," she says of seeing her mom care for patients day in and day out.

"My mother would come home with stories and I was able to glean that helping a person affects so much more than that one person," Bell tells PEOPLE. "It affects their families, their friends, their colleagues [and more]. If you help one person, you are actually helping 100 other people. We are like stones thrown in a pond — there is a massive ripple effect."

The Golden Globe nominee also reflects on the meaningful lesson she learned after her husband Dax Shepard lost his dad to lung cancer in 2012 and his stepdad to prostate cancer in 2018.

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"I've learned there isn't a road map to caring for someone who is sick and there certainly isn't a road map to handling grief after their passing," says the star.

"Leaning on family members helped us and sharing the caregiving duties so that the weight didn't fall on just one person," Bell explains. "Everyone needs to be able to have a tap-out buddy if they want to go on a walk, check something off their own to-do list or simply have a good cry."

Fighting cancer is a cause close to her heart, and Bell is doing her part to help those impacted by the devastating disease.

The mom of two has partnered with The Prostate Cancer Foundation for the launch of their monthlong fourth Annual TRUE Love Contest, in which the organization will accept personal stories through the rest of February that reflect compassion, honor and respect for prostate cancer patients.

Bell will curate gift packages for the submissions she finds most endearing. Winners will be announced by The Prostate Cancer Foundation in March via social media.

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