Toledo organization offers free programs for children grieving the death of a loved one

According to Good Grief, one in ten Ohio children will experience the death of a parent or sibling by the age of 18.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 5:49 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Thousands of children in northwest Ohio are coping with the death of a loved one and there’s a non-profit organization in Toledo that helps kids navigate their grief and cope with the loss.

It’s called Good Grief of Northwest Ohio and all the programs are free.

When a child loses a loved one, the adults in their life often struggle to find ways to help them. That’s where Good Grief comes in. Hundreds of kids are helped through peer support groups every year and the organization is always working to extend its reach.

David Tod was seven years old when his father died about a year ago. He says Good Grief has been a big part of his healing process.

“You get to talk about the person who died and how it feels to have that happen to you,” said Tod.

Jennifer Pauken is David’s mom.

“The main focus of us being here is David, but it has helped me a lot, too,” said Pauken. “For me, the biggest struggle has been the gradual realization that I am his only parent now.”

Jennifer says Good Grief has provided life-changing support on many levels.

“I realize that I am not the only one feeling these kind of stresses,” said Pauken. “I also get insight into how other parents help their kids or the struggles they’re having with their kids. It helps you connect. You discover that you are not alone and that makes a huge difference.”

The peer support groups start with an activity for the kids, which helps open the door for conversations about their grief.

“Good Grief provides a chance for kids to be with other kids their own age who have also lost someone important to them. Some families are here because of a medical related death like cancer or a heart attack. Others are here because of something sudden like violence or substance abuse,” said Dorothy Mockensturm, the managing director. “The places kids spend most of their time are often not set up to support them, that’s why Good Greif exists. Our process is very informal. It starts with a phone call and usually we can answer most of your questions. Make sure to call and we can help.”

Mockensturm says the numbers clearly tell the story of the need.

“One in ten kids in the state of Ohio will experience the death of a parent or sibling by the age of 18, so in Lucas County alone, that is 12,000 kids,” said Mockensturm.

Some of the families reach out for help right after a death while others come years later. Mockensturm says Good Grief offers support at all points of the journey.

“If grief is not addressed it has an impact on your resiliency and your life outcomes,” said Mockensturm. “Research shows that the right support at the right time produces much better life outcomes.”

Good Grief relies on donations to provide all the free programs and the biggest fundraiser of the year will be on June 8 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The event, called Raising Hope, will be held at The Premier on Heatherdowns and tickets are still available.

If you’d like to make a donation or learn more about the event and the programs of Good Grief, click here.

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