Build resiliency for families who lost a primary caregiver to COVID-19 through grief and bereavement support
The Brave of Heart Fund supported efforts across the country to provide children and the families of individuals, especially frontline healthcare workers, who lost their lives to COVID-19 with the resources needed to recover from their losses and promote their long-term emotional well-being. These include:
- Creating near-term capacity for family bereavement programs
- Developing resources available to all families regardless of geography
- Training for professionals interfacing with children and families experiencing crisis, trauma, and loss
- Supporting the systems serving bereaved children
While we are inspired by and honored to report the outcomes and statistics below, the need for continued work in this space was a consistent theme from all grantees and their programs.
children and adults
received direct grief and bereavement support through in person and virtual 1:1 counseling, grief support groups, grief camps, family hikes, and more
Located in 40 states
mental health professionals,
educators, and community service providers received professional development to support children experiencing crisis, trauma, and loss
Located in 31 states
unique visits to online bereavement resources and support
Coming to CZC with other members of the Covid Community meant the world to my girls and me. A Covid Loss has additional layers of trauma and grief that others who haven’t experienced can’t fully understand. Being with others who have lived our nightmare helped us to not feel alone.
Comfort Zone Camp Parent
This was extremely helpful for the population I am working with currently. I am a new social worker and this is a modality I can really see myself utilizing for years to come.
Professional Development Participant
TAG Center (Trauma & Grief Component Therapy Training)
The Brave of Heart Fund grant enabled the Dougy Center to develop resources for Covid-bereaved children, something we would not have otherwise had the capacity to do. These resources work to provide the over 340,000 who had a parent or caregiver die of COVID-19 feel less isolated in their grief.
Executive Director, Dougy Center
The Brave of Heart grant enabled Eluna to expand our national in-person program through the launch of Camp Erin Online. We hired a dedicated clinician and increased our capacity to make grief support services and community accessible to more families. Being able to serve families in their own homes, especially those grieving following a stigmatized death or those experiencing social anxiety, neurodiversity, and other barriers to support, is incredibly impactful.
Bethany Gardner, MA
Director of Bereavement Programs, Eluna
Partner organizations and grantees include:
MADE POSSIBLE BY BRAVE OF HEART GRANT FUNDING
Provided a safe space and support for people who lost a loved one to COVID-19 and who need support and skills to cope with their loss via in-person and virtual camps and support groups.
Developed an online toolkit in English and Spanish featuring over 40 free resources focused on supporting children and families after a death from COVID-19, with specific resources for first responders and healthcare workers. It includes podcasts, age-appropriate activity printouts, tip sheets for caregivers and grievers, and more.
Produced an activity workbook, available for free download, for kids grieving a death from COVID-19, and a grief journal for teens, both available in English and Spanish.
Disseminated all resources through a newly developed national directory of agencies supporting first responders and healthcare workers.
Provided support to youth and families who experienced the death of someone significant in their lives due to COVID-19, as well as those whose grief journey was disrupted by the pandemic, through a specialty resource hub, in-person grief support family camps, and a new online grief support program offering workshops and monthly groups accessible nationwide.
Supported 13 established bereavement providers to reach those in their local community impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic via bereavement groups, grief camps, direct counseling, and sharing resources among those supporting grieving children.
Imagine, A Center for Coping with Loss
M Health Fairview Ridges Hospital
New Hope Grief Support Community
Long Beach, CA
Roberta’s House, Inc.
Tamarack Grief Resource Center
The Cove Center for Grieving Children
The Grief Center of Southwest Colorado
Coconut Creek, FL
Empowered and supported educators in five school districts serving approximately two million students to:
- Provide universal support to grieving students and those recovering from the crisis of the pandemic
- Normalize such assistance and equip staff to identify children with family members who died from COVID-19
- Build capacity of school mental health providers and other educators to support these students dealing with crisis and loss in the aftermath of the pandemic
- Help school administrators and other leaders create supportive environments for students dealing with crisis and loss
- Assist educators in enhancing their professional self-care
Provided free, evidence-based assessment and treatment for bereaved youth with psychological distress due to COVID-19 deaths through the Lucine Center.
Trained school- and community-based clinicians in Trauma and Grief Component Therapy, an evidence-based intervention designed to reduce youth maladaptive grief, PTSD, and suicide risk.
Established a framework for trauma-responsive and bereavement-informed youth mentoring to meet the long-term needs of the unprecedented number of children who have lost a parent, primary caregiver, or family member to COVID-19. Through customized guidance to mentoring and bereavement care partners, this project shares resources, trainings, presentations and offer speaker series sessions to build the capacity of community service providers to address unprecedented needs for long-term and adaptive support for grieving children.
Themes across programs
Our non-profit partners worked directly with children and families to serve their grief and bereavement needs, and also bolstered the systems and professionals who are already engaged with this work. Their approaches varied, and underscored the complexities of providing services where and when people search for them, as many families and individuals do not seek grief support until significant time has passed after their loss. While programs and services were delivered to a variety of populations in differing ways, consistent themes emerged across our grantees’ collective experiences.
Virtual programming offers benefits
While bereavement organizations pivoted to virtual programming during the pandemic, in many cases our grants allowed organizations to intentionally invest in and design programs for an online environment. They found that programming intended for virtual delivery can augment the overall offerings of bereavement programming. This is especially true for rural communities or for individuals who have physical difficulties accessing programs. It can also help alleviate uncertainty and hesitation around attending programs, increase access, and allow people to participate in less public ways while still receiving services and support.
Increased urgency and demand for services, particularly in schools
Organizations supporting families in their grief and bereavement are facing unprecedented demand. The number of children becoming newly bereaved due to parent death increased 46% between 2019 and 2021. While COVID is not the sole contributor to this increase, over 300,000 children lost a parent or caregiver because of it.* Our nonprofit partners expressed that communities are in crisis, schools are struggling to support staff, and staff is overwhelmed. School districts are also more frequently requesting training on professional self-care and leading during a crisis.
Importance of cultural competency and sensitivity
The following complexities underscore the critical need for cultural competency when supporting families who have experienced a COVID-related death:
- Prior experiences with inequity and discrimination can compound grief and loss for people of color.
- The pandemic carried a disproportionate impact on families of color.
- Many youth who experienced a COVID-related loss have also been exposed to prior traumas.
These complexities add a layer of necessary trust-building, support, and sensitivity to fully address grief.
Shared experience contributes to building community
The opportunity to connect with others who have common experiences in their loss, particularly for those who experienced loss during the pandemic or as a result of a potentially stigmatized cause such as COVID-19, can create a helpful sense of community. Organizations serving families have continued opportunity to explore how to foster connections through shared experience.
Understanding the nuances of loss during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenges of grieving someone who died due to COVID-19, can also create more compassion for survivors. These include:
- Losing someone who was required to show up for work in person during the pandemic
- Lack of understanding regarding the complexity of the loss; that their person went to work without complaining and made the ultimate sacrifice; “they are heroes”
- Not being able to say goodbye or comfort their person in a meaningful way (e.g., having to say goodbye “through glass,” not having a funeral)
- Misclassification of death type
- Strangers downplaying or having strong opinions about the death
- Lack of access to services when they were needed the most
Importance of offering an array of approaches
Even in similar communities, needs can sometimes require different solutions. Each person’s grief journey looks different and they may need different types and levels of support along the way.
Stigma surrounding a COVID-related death
Stigma around COVID-related deaths remains for surviving members of families, and their grief needs to be validated. Broadening programs and support to be inclusive, rather than COVID-specific, can increase participation of COVID-affected populations who might be reticent to self-identify due to this stigma. This is particularly interesting in juxtaposition with the learnings around the benefits of a shared community, and speaks to the need for varied approaches to reach as many people as possible with needed supports.