Groups Help Children Grieve After A Parent Dies

Nov. 16, 2017 — Alicia Kelly’s husband, Christopher, died suddenly in March 2016 in age 43 by a blood clot, leaving behind Alicia and her two young sons. Though her older son wasn’t showing any symptoms of despair, the mother of one of her son’s friends introduced her to the Club of Kate.

In Atlanta, which helps them develop skills to manage their grief, Kelly has taken her son, Kieran, 7, to the team at for over a year. Her son, 3, Graeham, isn’t old enough to attend.

“It is very important to me that folks do not underestimate the emotions that your child has,” Kelly says. “They believe things to a deeper level occasionally, and you can’t assume because they aren’t crying that they aren’t upset and they do not think about it.”

Kate’s Club is one of a number of classes dedicated to assisting the 2 million children and adults that have lost a parent:

  • Kate Atwood founded the team in 2003 to organize outings and activities to children who’ve experienced loss. Software manager at Kate’s Club in Atlanta, Lane Pease, says they’ve expanded to include solutions and support teams. They do provide community assistance while they are not a organization. They served about 470 children in the metro Atlanta region in the last calendar year.
  • The Dinner Party, a national organization that hosts get-togethers aimed at young adults who have lost a parent, is currently in 70 cities nationwide and 12 overseas. Lennon Flowers, a co-founder and the executive director, says they’ve been able to grow their neighborhood to about 5,000 individuals.
  • The National Alliance for Grieving Children, founded in 2004, comprises around 900 member organizations. The alliance offers training and support, each year, and it broadcasts a national symposium, states Andy McNiel.
  • Children’s Grief Awareness Day, commemorated this season on Nov. 16, has turned into a local celebration to an worldwide event because being launched in 2008 by Highmark Caring Place at Pennsylvania, states manager Terese Vorsheck.

McNiel says it is important for family members to recognize that children do grieve.

“Whether they are demonstrating whether or not, they are impacted when somebody in their life expires, and children fare better when they Have the Ability to be comprehended by people around them,” McNiel says.    

Rings, of The Dinner Party, states.

“You know pretty quickly how to prevent making others uncomfortable and ‘enjoy, oh my god, I am so sorry for making you feel so strange about my own life, I promise never to do that again,”‘ Flowers states. She says individuals that have lost a parent often feel as though they live parallel lives as they try to do “normal” things.

Flowers claims the organization started in 2010 she understood mutually who had lost their parents. They were able to help after starting a effort that is crowdfunding in 2013 expand the group.

The purpose of the group isn’t to repair loss, but to bring people who may be isolating themselves to a community to help them heal and build meaningful connections, she states.

Creating a Community

Kelly states that she can’t picture them not in her own life now and Kate’s Club has become a part of the lives.

“It just sounded like the ideal place to be and the very best decision I could have made,” Kelly says. “They have really had a substantial effect on my older kid in coming to terms with his father’s passing, and we’re very receptive — we speak about it, that is sort of the doctrine. It is just a wonderful fit.”

She states that her son enjoys the activities playing matches, and visiting the zoo.

Liz Carson, application and outreach coordinator of Kate’s Club, states each week “clubhouse times” start with fall off and a opportunity to innovate, accompanied with a welcome ring. The circle provides an chance for children to talk about who in their own family died and for introductions, she states.

They bar also has four outings a year in each season, plus vacation and other applications related to loss like Mother’s day, Father’s day, and sister’s afternoon. Once a month, they also have a family night.

Highmark Caring Place is comparable to Kate’s Club, with four centers. It provides peer support and programming for their families and children to help cope with loss, Vorsheck states.

The idea for boys ‘and girls’ Grief Awareness Day came after talking to children about what they desired. Its objective is to increase consciousness of the effect of passing on children and their demand for assistance.

“People oftentimes do not know that children that are grieving really require extra support,” Vorsheck states. “We hope to spread the word that it’s challenging for these children when someone close to them dies.”

Because this can be a time for people experiencing grief because that time is generally full of family traditions, the times falls before the holidays, Vorsheck states.

For people looking for an organization, Donna Schuurman, senior manager of advocacy and training, states a group’s website to see should be evaluated by people:

  • Who would be the folks running the business?
  • Just how credible is the organization?
  • What is the amount of instruction of the staff? Would they have individuals with even higher or master’s degrees?
  • What is the organization’s philosophy?
  • What is the basis of the organization?

Check out the standards of practice to the National Alliance for Grieving Children’s web site.


Alicia Kelly, 43, East Point, GA..

Liz Carson, outreach and program coordinator, Kate’s Club.

United States Census Bureau.

Donna Schuurman FT, senior manager of advocacy and training, executive director emeritus, The Dougy Center for Grieving Children & Families, Portland.

Lane Pease, program manager, Kate’s Club.

Terese Vorsheck, The Highmark Caring Place, manager.

Lennon Flowers, The Dinner Party, co-founder and executive director.

Andy McNiel chief executive officer.