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Guest Blog Post: Providing Grief Support to Families

Aug 06, 2015

Guest Blogger: Jill Johnson-Young

ASD is pleased to share the first guest blog post in our new blog series from Jill Johnson-Young. The blog series is focused on aftercare, self care, and helping families with grief recovery. Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW, is a clinical therapist in private practice in Riverside, California. She is the co-owner of Central Counseling Services, where she specializes in grief and loss for adults and children, as well as individual and family therapy. Jill is certified as a Grief Recovery Specialist through the Grief Recovery Institute and has more than a decade of experience as a medical social worker in hospice both in California and Florida. She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of South Florida and is licensed in California. Jill is a member of the Orange Belt Funeral Director’s Association. Her passion is seeing people work through the losses they experience and finding a new path where they can thrive in a life they choose.

Providing Grief Support to Families

I am so grateful to ASD for including me as a guest blogger each month. As the spouse of a mortician and friend of several directors and others in this industry, I realize many of you have seen a wide variety of ideas and options for grief, and experience incredible stress as you offer your services to your families. I haven’t met anyone yet who enters your profession as anything less than a calling and who doesn’t see your families as deserving the best you have to offer of yourselves and your services despite the cost to you. In the coming months, I will be addressing the needs of the people in your industry- the self-care that so few actually practice because you care so much for those you serve. Yes you- I am talking to you. Even my friend Jenny, who is a funeral director, who went on a fabulous Caribbean vacation and yet couldn’t wait to get back to her business because, as she put it, she missed it. Why? Because all of you do this because of who you are.

Your passion for caring for your families through those initial first few days or even hours is matched by my passion for caring for your families afterward. Loss is never expected, even when hospice and a terminal illness are involved. For families the actual moment of loss seems like it will never really happen. It’s far away and suddenly it’s there and they enter the new world of grief that is unfamiliar and has a new set of rituals, expectations, demands and symptoms they thought they knew and then suddenly find that they are in a different country and that they don’t speak the language. My job is to help them navigate that world, find the helpers and to use their time in grief to work through what’s left over from that relationship so they can move into a new life without regrets for things unsaid or undone.

In my private practice, I am able to sit with clients as we work through the issues. Unfortunately, as you know, many of the families we share don’t reach out for help. They aren’t comfortable going to a support group because it’s at a church they aren’t a member of or they don’t like sharing their feelings in public or they don’t want their families to find out they are attending or their families want them to attend so they won’t because they want their privacy and independence. Or maybe the family has had a death they consider “shameful” or they harbor some resentment toward the deceased and don’t want to be judged for their feelings. Maybe it’s a family where “family matters” are expected to stay private. It could be that someone is handicapped or simply exhausted after years as a caregiver and having to be somewhere is just too much to think about. There are so many reasons for not reaching out, all of them valid, but creating isolation in the land of grief.

Because of that reality, I created a new and comprehensive “grief in a box” online grief and loss support program that is entirely online. Your families can find it no matter where they are and no matter what time it is. “Your Path Through Grief” includes everything a traditional support group does and much more. It is not spiritually based to make it accessible to those who do not have a faith base or feel the loss has challenged their ability to believe. It is written to meet the needs of all the losses you see with your families, from infants to natural deaths as a result of age, and all types of families. This program is what I longed to be able to provide my hospice families, but couldn’t find anywhere. It includes:

  • Daily emails that arrive overnight addressed to where that person is in their grief process with normalization, education, and support, as well as tasks that might be helpful at that point.
  • An online and private grief support group monitored by a licensed therapist.
  • A grief notebook which is written to help recover from the loss with activities for the survivor.
  • A memorial page where members can create a page for their loved ones that they design.
  • Resources for getting life back on track as well as for contacts to work with organizations in memory of their loved one.
  • Videos that provide education about the unexpected symptoms of loss, normalization about the experiences survivors are having and self-care as they cope with grief, including meditation and guided imagery for those times when survivors are up at 2am and feeling that they are the only ones feeling this way.
  • Access to grief coaching with a licensed clinician via Skype or Google by appointment.
  • Weekly blogs about grief which will include addressing the impact of major news events that can cause complications for grieving people.

The program will meet the needs of families you serve and will guide them to resources for support so they can recover from their loss. It’s something that can be given by adult kids to a surviving parent or friends for a major loss as a gift. It will mean the survivor will not have a single day in the first year where they don’t have contact from us and they can reach others from the safety of home. They will know what they are feeling and experiencing is normal. And it will walk with them on that journey past every one of the “firsts.”

To learn more about the Your Path Through Grief Support Program, click here

Check back next month for the second guest blog post from Jill Johnson-Young on Providing Grief Support to Families

About The Author

Jess Farren (Fowler)

Jess Farren (Fowler) is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD’s company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at

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