Good Grief Helps Lerma and Kailynn Through Loss

Malena Attar Press

On March 31, 2016, Lerma Vales’s husband, David, died suddenly after experiencing a heart attack while driving. “It was the hardest thing that has ever happened in my life,” Lerma reflected. For a while, she and her 9-year-old daughter, Kailynn, went through the motions: keeping busy with work, school, and family. Lerma thought her daughter was coping with the loss until a babysitter told her that Kailynn broke down one evening saying she was “scared that mommy’s not going to come home like daddy didn’t come home.” The next day, Lerma asked for help from the school’s counselor, who told her about Good Grief.

Good Grief opened its Jersey City satellite location last year thanks to generous funding from New York Life Foundation. Good Grief provides free grief support program for children 6- to 18-years-old who have experienced the death of someone significant in their lives. Children participate in age-specific peer support groups, while the guardians receive support and learn resilient parenting for bereaved children. Each cycle in Jersey City meets once a week for 9 weeks, and families can enroll as many times as they need the program.

“My daughter’s whole attitude has changed since coming to Good Grief because she knows she is not alone,” observed Lerma. “At Good Grief, Kailynn feels safe, gets support, and is comfortable in her own skin. As a parent that means everything to me.”

Isolation and loneliness are among the most frequently experienced effects of grief and loss. Through Good Grief, grieving kids and adults get to be with others who understand their experience. Good Grief’s peer support model helps participants by reducing isolation, tapping into resiliency, and creating a safe environment where they can develop healthy coping strategies that promote resilience and hope.

Lerma explained that before Good Grief, she and Kailynn were pretty disconnected. “We were both moving forward, but we weren’t really seeing each other’s pain and experience. Getting support for ourselves, and hearing other people going through something similar, helped us to actually see other.” Lerma added that Kailynn earns money through chores and puts it in envelopes labeled “Give,” “Save,” or “Spend.” “I want to donate my “Give” envelope to Good Grief because I love how it has helped me and I want it to help other kids too,” Kailynn said proudly.

Good Griefremains free to families’ thanks in part to community partners that host each program cycle, including RWJBarnabas Health in 2018, and Hamilton Park Montessori School in February 2019. Good Grief’s next cycle in Jersey City will begin in September 2019.

To learn more about the program, volunteer opportunities, or potential partnerships, please contact Whitney Allen:


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 160 communities, we operate programs in Morristown, Princeton, Jersey City, and Newark. For more information about Good Grief, please visit our web site