Jersey City, NJ- Gerard Richardson died suddenly in 2016, leaving his wife of 20 years, Tracy, and their two daughters, Tiana and Ayana alone. “Gerard was a very loved by our community, an awesome father, and my dearest friend. His death was very hard for our family,” Tracy reflected.
Due to a coma, Tiana, now 7-years-old, and Ayana, now 14-years-old, were unable to see their father right before his death. “Our girls were heartbroken. Although they kept it together and remained Straight-A students after the death of their dad, I saw other changes in them.” said Tracy. “Ayana wouldn’t talk about what happened, but I saw her pain and grief in her drawings.”
This past spring, Good Grief partnered with RWJBarnabas Health and New York Life Foundation to launch a free grief support program for families in Jersey City called In Community. Good Grief’s mission is to provide unlimited and free support to children, teens, young adults, and families after the death of a mother, father, sister, or brother through peer support programs, education, and advocacy. Good Grief’s In Community meets once a week for 9 weeks, and is designed for children 6-18-years-old who have experienced the loss of someone significant in their lives. Children participate in age-specific peer support groups, while the guardians receive support and learn resilient parenting.
Tracy found out about Good Grief’s In Community program through her daughters’ schools. She enrolled her family hoping it would help her kids open up about their experience and their grief. “I signed up for my girls, but on the first night I heard another widow speak- I felt like I was looking at a reflection. She was around my age, had two daughters, and I saw my heartbreak in her. I no longer felt alone. Good Grief turned out to be helpful for me as well as my daughters.”
Through a variety of weekly activities, In Community fosters stronger parent/guardian relationships, promotes responsiveness from adults, and equips children with coping strategies that promote resilience and hope. “I feel better when I come to Good Grief,” said Ayana “I’ve learned to talk about my feelings. It’s actually my favorite part,” she added, laughing.
Thanks to generous funding from the New York Life Foundation, In Community is free for families, and they can enroll as many times as they need. Participants receive the necessary coping skills required to face grief from the start, giving them tools for the remainder of their lives. “We all look forward to going to Good Grief every week. It’s a 20-minute commute, but my girls made me promise to sign up again in the fall.” Tracy said “I can see changes in my family after going to Good Grief and it fills me with hope and joy. Now we can tell each other how we feel and we can talk about Gerard. We retell his jokes, we laugh about memories, and we remember our good moments together. It has changed the way we communicate and interact with one another.” Tracy concluded with a smile in her eyes.
To learn more about In Community, volunteer opportunities, or potential partnerships, please contact Whitney Allen: [email protected]
Good Grief is respected as a national leader in delivering grief services to children and their families. It is the leading provider of these services in New Jersey serving over 1,000 children since its founding in 2004. Good Grief is a registered 501(c) (3) tax-exempt non-profit organization whose mission is to provide unlimited free support to children, teens and families after the death of a parent or sibling. Servicing more than 150 communities, we operate programs in Morristown and Princeton. For more information about Good Grief, please visit our web site www.good-grief.org.