Can you provide more detail on your program for children and teens?

ASHLEY’s Friends offers peer support groups for children and teens from 5-18 years of age and their families following the death of a loved one. All groups are facilitated by trained volunteers who are in turn coordinated by the professional staff of Ashley’s Friends.

Groups are held on Monday nights from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., in eight-week intervals, four times each calendar year.  Each meeting begins with a casual, family-style dinner to encourage informal conversation and relationship building.

Following dinner, children are divided into small groups based upon age. We try to keep our groups small, with no more than 10 or 12 children, with several volunteers in each group. In general, the ages of the groups are 5-7, 8-11, 12-15, 16+. Age grouping is flexible and dependant on the circumstances of death, gender, maturity, etc.

During the 1-hr. and 15 minute session, we want to offer a variety of ways to help children and adolescents safely express their feelings. Therefore, all are encouraged to use art, story telling, writing, role plays, and music to identify, express, and cope with feelings and issues related to the loss of their loved one.

Each meeting concludes with a simple ceremony to help children and teens memorialize their loved one.

Adult groups are for parents and caregivers of participating children and meet in a separate area while the children meet.

The purpose of the groups is to:

•    Promote a sense of belonging among children who have experienced the death of a loved one
•    Offer developmentally appropriate information and activities to help children cope
•    Allow children to express a wide range of feelings in a caring and compassionate environment
•    Offer hope and support healing
•    Provide parents a separate group to discuss the challenges of helping a child through the grieving process, often while grieving themselves

Families are encouraged to participate in the program as long as they desire.  Most remain involved on a weekly basis for at least 12 months, and then stay in contact for support once they formally decide to leave the program.

While participating in a peer support group may be therapeutic, we do not provide private therapy or counseling.

How much does it cost?
Our programs are free of charge to the families who participate. ASHLEY’s Friends is a non-profit organization and relies entirely upon the generosity of donors and fundraising for support.  Because we provide support groups and not therapy, insurance policies do not cover our services.

Is there a waiting list?
No, we do not have a waiting list for families.  However, we do organize our peer support groups in 8-week sessions, which are offered four times each year.  When a family first calls, we encourage them to start at the beginning of a session.  If a session is in progress, we will offer the option of joining late, if a family chooses not to wait for the next series.

How long after the death does a family need to wait before calling?
A family can call and start the process for participation as soon as they are ready. Each person and family grieves differently, and the family is the best judge of when they are ready to deal with the death in a support group.

How long is a family expected to attend groups?
The intensity and duration of grief is unique for each individual and family. Children/teens choose when to start and when to stop attending. When a family is enrolled in a group, we expect they attend all 8 weeks of a session.  We also ask that families call if they must be absent. Continuity of attendance is important to build the peer group into a supportive environment for the grief work. The average length of attending groups is one year but it varies greatly from one 8-week series to 3 years.

What if a child/teen needs private therapy?
ASHLEY’S Friends does not provide private therapy or counseling. We have a list of referral therapists who counsel children, teens, and/or adults with grief issues. Upon request we provide information we have about individual therapists. We do not endorse therapists, but provide information for a family to select a therapist for their particular needs.

How do I get my child/teen started?

1. Please call 586-215-7100 to register and a staff member will return your call within 24 hours. At that time we will take basic information about your family and the person who died. We are happy to answer any of your questions, discuss your concerns, and help you decide if a peer support group is right for you and your family.  If you need advice about grieving children or teens, a program staff person can talk with you about that, too.

2. When we talk, you will be given the starting date of the next 8 week series. If we are in the middle of a series, you are welcome to join immediately or wait for the next one to begin. Sometimes families don’t want to wait until the next session begins and choose to begin right away.

3. If you would like, prior to making a commitment to the program, you and your family are welcome to tour either of our two facilities and meet members of the staff.

4.  If you chose to participate in a support group at ASHLEY’s Friends, enrollment papers are distributed during the first session. You may complete at that time or take them home and return them to us the following week.

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