Our programs are free of charge to the families who participate. We rely entirely upon the generosity of donors and fundraising for support. ASHLEY’s Friends has several program options from which parents and children can choose:
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.
No one wants to forget a loved one after a death. In fact, most people seek ways to remember. Yet, sometimes it is difficult for children and teens to find ways to remember and honor those they have loved. Therefore, we hold two memorial ceremonies each year:
A balloon release each summer and a tree lighting service during the holiday season. All families who are enrolled in the support group are encouraged to attend, but anyone who would like to remember a loved one is welcome to participate.
The memorial ceremonies are also a wonderful activity for families who no longer need a weekly support group, but are seeking a way to honor and remember their loved one, in a caring and comforting place.