Learning to Communicate Grief

Alex and Corey's Story

I’ll build a memory every day.” That was Corey’s plan when she and her 10-year-old nephew, Alex, learned that Alex’s terminally ill mother, Heather, was coming home from the hospital. Heather’s family was glad to have her home, especially because they couldn’t visit her often in the hospital because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But their time together was short. “I thought we had six months, but we didn’t. She was only with us—with her son—for two days.”

In October 2020, Alex lost his mom, and Corey lost her sister. Heather had been sick for quite a while, in and out of the hospital, but they always held out hope. “And then she was gone,” says Corey. “I thought we would have more time.”

Corey had been a devoted sister and daughter for much of her adult life, helping Heather raise Alex while also caring for their mom, who passed away a year before Heather in October 2019. “October is no longer our favorite month,” Corey says. Together, she and her dad have made a home for Alex.

Heather, Alex's mother and Corey's sister, smiling and posing for the camera.
Heather, Alex's Mother and Corey's Sister

“I was seeing a counselor, working through my own grief. It was the counselor who told me about a grief support program for children who have lost a loved one. I said, ‘Really? That’s amazing! How much does it cost?’ I couldn’t believe it wouldn’t cost us anything. I thought it was just what Alex needed. I kept saying ‘I’m just here for Alex.’ But, you know, I lost my little sister too! That’s when I learned they had a program for us—my dad and me—to help us grieve ourselves and with Alex.”

Safe Crossings Foundation is dedicated to helping grieving children in the Puget Sound region by researching and funding grief support programs for kids and their families. With your year-end gift, we can offer the free support that kids like Alex need to heal and thrive after the loss of a loved one, and help the adult caregivers of those children, as well.

Grief counselors have nimbly adapted to COVID-19 safety restrictions in a variety of ways. For example, twice a month, Alex logs on for a virtual session with other children who are grieving. Before each session he gets a packet in the mail—sometimes it has crayons in it, sometimes colored paper, whatever he needs for the activity the kids and counselors do together. Corey and her dad join a separate virtual session for parents and caregivers twice a month, too, which includes materials for their activity. “Usually it’s just paper forms, but the sessions are amazing! I didn’t realize how much I needed to talk about losing both my mom and my sister.”

Corey and Alex were both home with Heather when she died, and the impact of her death was staggering. It took them a long time to learn how to express their emotions and ask for what they needed from one another. Free grief support has helped them process their loss and find joy again. 

“Now, Alex will say to me, ‘I would like to have a conversation about my mom.’ And I’ll say, ‘Ok.’ Then he’ll say ‘I’m upset because I’m thinking about my mom. I feel like a hug would make me feel better. And not just any hug. I need a 15- to 20-second hug, and if it lasted longer, I wouldn’t be mad.’ So, we hug, and it means so much! This program also helps me understand that he’s not just a kid who lost his mom, not just my nephew. He’s his own little person, he’s 11, and his responses to grieving are different than mine. He’s told me ‘I need these people in my life!’”

Alex, age 11, with his Aunt Corey and Grandpa
Alex with his Aunt Corey and Grandpa

Alex is just one of the thousands of children and young adults in our region who are served by programs funded by Safe Crossings Foundation each year. The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the number of children who are having to work through the trauma of having lost a loved one, and so the need now is greater than ever.

For over 30 years, Safe Crossings Foundation has helped grieving children. One in ten youth lose a parent or sibling before the age of 25. Your support is vital to making sure these programs are free and accessible to everyone who needs them.

Each child copes in different ways, and the broad spectrum of programs funded by Safe Crossings Foundation is essential to helping these children heal and thrive. Our vision is that no child will grieve alone, and we ask for your support in making that vision a reality. Please make a donation to help grieving children today.

With warm gratitude,

Karen Schrantz
Executive Director, Safe Crossings Foundation

P.S. Holidays can be especially hard for grieving children. Safe Crossings Foundation strives to make the holidays a little easier by funding a variety of programs that help at this time of year. Please join us by making your donation today.

If you prefer to give via check, please mail it to:
Safe Crossings Foundation
4210 Southwest Oregon St, Suite H
Seattle, WA 98116

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