In the past, it was common practice to try and protect children and adolescents
from the pain of losing a loved one, turning them into “invisible
grievers.” However, experts now encourage adults to acknowledge
children’s grief and allow them to mourn in the company of relatives
Mary Washington Grief Support Services started Kids Helping Kids to overcome
the obstacles that may prevent bereaved children from accessing the services
they need. This in-school program is provided free of charge to any student
grieving the loss of a loved one.
In 2019, the program was held in eight schools across our area. Lead sponsor, the
New York Life Foundation, and local sponsor,
Youth in Philanthropy, make this work possible.
Through their generous support, Mary Washington Grief Support Services
provided over 70 students with complimentary grief support at Courthouse
Road Elementary, Locust Grove Elementary, Riverview Elementary, Thornburg
Middle, King George Middle, Chancellor Middle, Riverbend High, and Spotsylvania
Pictured is Spotsylvania High School volunteer Audrey Rott.
The 7-week curriculum focuses on encouraging healthy expressions of grief;
improving coping and communication skills; understanding the grief process;
and decreasing feelings of anxiety, isolationism, and depression.
With a focus on best practices that address the impact of childhood trauma
and a deep understanding of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Trauma-Informed
Care (TIC), Grief Support Services' children and teen programming
provides bereavement intervention at a critical point in young people's lives.
Incorporating findings from the ACE study changed the way we train our
volunteer facilitators and approach our youth programming; symptoms of
trauma (like experiencing the death of a loved one at a young age) are
treated as normal reactions to abnormal experiences and helps shape staff
practices that strengthen relationships with youth, enhances the feeling
of personal safety, creates a sense of welcome and respect within support
groups and stresses the importance of delivering preventive services to
vulnerable individuals and families as early as possible.
The kids who participated in Kids Helping Kids took a survey at the end
of the year to give us feedback on the program.
- 96% felt heard when they shared with the group
- 96% felt comfortable in the group
- 89% said the group helped them understand their feelings
- 93% said the group helped them understand coping
- 100% said they would encourage a grieving friend to attend group
If you would like more information regarding Kids Helping Kids or available
grief programming for both children and adults, please email
visit our webpage.