A new Toledo-based organization, Good Grief of Northwest Ohio, offers free support for grieving children and their parents. It’s a much-needed service in any community — but especially in an urban community where violence and other circumstances often leave families to cope, almost alone, with feelings of overwhelming loss and pain.
Services by the nonprofit group officially start in April, but some families already are getting help and support in coping with the death of a father or mother. The death of a parent or loved one often leaves children feeling isolated, overwhelmed, and guilt-ridden. Without support and guidance, a child’s grief can do long-term damage, including loss of interest in school.
Peer interaction and counseling can alleviate those hurtful feelings. Services provided by Good Grief of Northwest Ohio will include support groups for young people from the ages of 4 to 24, overseen by licensed social workers and trained grief specialists.
Good Grief also must reach children who need help badly but don’t always connect with traditional social service organizations. Those include African-American children in Toledo’s central city who have lost a parent to violence, or who have a parent in prison or jail.
Nationwide, more than 2 million U.S. children — and one in 14 African-American children — have an incarcerated parent. The numbers are even higher in poor central-city neighborhoods. These children are up to seven times more likely to go to prison, yet few programs or agencies serve them.
Last week, the family of a 29-year-old father of two children, who was shot to death last year, bemoaned the lack of counseling and other support services for families like theirs. Reaching those children will take special efforts by Good Grief and other organizations. Still, such families can be identified and helped by working through central-city churches, pastors, community centers, and other on-the-ground organizations.
Good Grief founder Molly Long, a former executive director of the Toledo Children’s Hospital Foundation; volunteer Sarah Stachak, 21; and Karen Smith, a retired elementary school counselor working with Good Grief, have helped fill a glaring gap in the services this region provides to children. The entire community must help them make sure these special services are available to as many Toledo-area children as possible. For more information, visit goodgriefnwo.org.