The Good Grief Program at Boston Medical Center has an illustrative history of providing exceptional care to children and families at a time when they may feel most vulnerable: after a child has experienced a significant loss. Although loss is an inevitable part of life; the experience of a significant loss such as death, divorce, or separation from a primary caregiver challenges us all, especially children. In the aftermath of loss, children need the support of caring adults to help them make sense of their loss, to support them in their grief, and to encourage their use of healthy and adaptive coping strategies. The Good Grief Program has acted as a steadying and supportive force for grieving families as they adapt and move forward in the wake of tragedy and crisis.
The program accomplishes this work through a variety of efforts including offering developmentally-informed, comprehensive consultation for caregivers supporting grieving children; providing grief-sensitive training and consultation for educators, schools, and other community agencies; and connecting individuals to grief resources and making appropriate referrals. The Good Grief Program seeks to equip families with the tools needed to process their grief experience and to promote lifelong resiliency.
The experience of a significant loss can be overwhelming for everyone in a family. It is normal for parents and caregivers to feel “at a loss” for how to talk to their children about what has happened (or what is going to happen). The Good Grief Program is here to offer parents and caregivers a helping hand. Through Good Grief’s Developmental Consultation service, caregivers meet with a clinician who can provide an empathetic space for caregivers to consider how a loss is impacting their child and the best ways to support that child. The clinician will provide information on how children understand and grieve losses. Additionally, caregivers can discuss any concerns they may have, explore language to use to explain loss with the child, and consider supportive strategies to help children. The clinician can also provide connections to additional supports, as needed.
What is the goal of the Developmental Consultation?
The goal of this service is to offer parents/caregivers a source of support as a family encounters an acute loss.
Who is this service for?
The developmental consultations are for parents/caregivers of children who have experienced an acute loss, such as the death of a family member, parental divorce, caregiver separation (due to incarceration, deportation, DCF placement, etc.), or immigration losses.
Who comes to this appointment?
Although the session is focused on the affected child(ren), this appointment is best suited for the child’s caregiving adults to attend. This allows the caregivers and the clinician to fully explore the caregiver’s concerns and the impact of the loss on the child(ren).
What should a caregiver expect from the consultation?
Caregiver(s) will meet individually with a clinician to:
- Discuss how the loss is impacting their child(ren)
- Receive education on how children grieve
- Develop age-appropriate, developmentally-informed language to support the child’s understanding of the loss
- Explore supportive strategies to help children as they grieve and adapt to life after their loss
How many sessions is the Developmental Consultation?
The number of sessions is flexible in order to best respond to each family’s needs. While many families need just one session, some may benefit from returning for one to two more additional sessions.
What happens after the consultation is finished?
During the consultation session, the clinician will work with the parent/caregiver(s) to assess what additional supports may be needed. The clinician will provide needed/desired referrals (e.g., in-home therapy, bereavement groups, individualized counseling, family counseling, etc.).
How do I setup a Developmental Consultation?
Interested families can refer themselves by contacting the Good Grief Program: 617.414.4005. Providers may also make referrals through contacting the program.
Resource and Referral Connections
The Good Grief Program maintains a robust library of resources for children, families, schools, and other community agencies. The Good Grief Program is part of a network of other childhood bereavement providers as well as a close collaborator with many mental health, behavioral health, and therapy providers. If you are in need of more information or a referral to a children’s bereavement or behavioral health program in your area, please contact us at 617.414.4005.
Consultation and Information
Providers supporting grieving families may not know where to turn for bereavement resources or information. The Good Grief program offers consultation and information to other professionals to best support families in need. By contacting our program, providers can speak with a clinician who can offer connections to grief resources, general information about the bereavement process, and individualized consultation for impacted families. If you are interested in this service please call 617.414.4005.
Training and Workshops
The Good Grief Program at Boston Medical Center offers a variety of training opportunities for professionals interested in learning more about how to best support children who have experienced loss. These trainings and workshops are built on the belief that in the crisis of loss lies an opportunity for developing and strengthening coping skills in all children. The following list describes some of the trainings offered through the Good Grief Program.
Understanding Children's Grief and Loss Experiences
This training explores the impact of acute loss on children. Using dialogue, activities, videos, and presentations; participants will explore the meaning of loss in engaging, respectful, and approachable ways.
Supporting Grieving Children: Practical Strategies during Uncomfortable Times
This training uses real-life examples to explore and delineate the most important principles in talking to and supporting grieving children.
Incorporating Grief and Loss into Classroom Culture
The classroom provides ample opportunities to explore death, loss, and grief with students. This training supports educators to identify when and where the concepts of death and loss can be naturally integrated into their curriculum to support the hidden and identified grievers in their classrooms.
The Good Grief Program at Boston Medical Center specializes in tailoring trainings and workshops to fit your particular needs. For more information on availability, cost, and how to bring a training to your school or agency, please contact us at 617-414-4005.
Promoting Resiliency in Urban Youth: A Multidimensional Bereavement Pilot Partnership of the Good Grief Program at Boston Medical Center
The Promoting Resiliency in Urban Youth pilot is a collaborative effort with two Boston Public Schools (BPS) to bring school-based grief support services to the diverse student population of BPS. This partnership, funded through the generous support of the New York Life Foundation, seeks to strengthen and sustain the school environment as a place of safety and security for bereaved youth and their families. Similar to many urban cities, children and youth living in inner-city Boston are disproportionately affected by stressors like poverty, chronic homelessness, and food insecurity. These stressors are often exacerbated and amplified by exposure to trauma and loss. Many of these children live in resource deserts, where needed services and supports go unmet. The Promoting Resiliency Partnership eliminates this distance through bringing bereavement support into an environment where children and youth are almost every day: their school. The partnership empowers school staff through grief education and training, resulting in educators who feel effective in responding to the needs of grieving students. The pilot includes:
- Several 8-week, closed bereavement support groups for referred students
- Grief and Loss training for Educators and School Staff
- Crisis Team Training and Crisis Response Protocol Development
- Ongoing Consultation and Support
The Promoting Resiliency in Urban Youth Partnership is currently being piloted at select Boston Public School sites. If you would like more information about how to replicate this work at your school, please contact us at 617.414.4005.
The Good Grief Program offers internship opportunities for graduate students in social work, psychology, and other mental health programs. Interns assist with delivering the supportive services of the program, including caregiver consultation and bereavement group facilitation. Interns also support the day-to-day operations of the Good Grief Program such as connecting interested individuals to appropriate bereavement and/or mental health resources and observing community-based trainings. Each year, interns are encouraged to complete a research or pilot project that relates to needs of grieving families or the work of the Good Grief Program.
To apply for a clinical internship at the Good Grief Program, please email your resume and cover letter to Maureen Patterson-Fede, [email protected].
Volunteers not only contribute to the work of the Good Grief Program; they offer a sense of hope and connection to grieving children and families. If you are interested in learning more about ways to get involved with the Good Grief Program, please contact Maureen Patterson-Fede at [email protected].
Maureen Patterson-Fede, MSW, LICSW
Mental Health Clinician
Maureen Patterson-Fede is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker who brings years of working with children and families to her work with the Good Grief Program. The central pillar to Maureen’s work has been supporting children and their caregivers as they heal from trauma and loss. She has worked with families in a variety of settings including domestic violence shelters, Children's Advocacy Centers, clinic-based settings, and home-based work. Across these environments, she has learned that families deeply benefit from kind, empathetic, and attentive care that is led by their needs and illuminates their strengths and resiliency.
In her work with the Good Grief Program, Maureen brings her experience to provide developmentally-informed, responsive consultation and support services to caregivers and their children in the wake of an acute loss. Maureen also works collaboratively with school communities to provide training on how to support resiliency and well-being for students who are grieving.
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