united states | when families grieve

Countering sorrow and sadness with talk, time...and love.

Children’s Education Initiatives in United States | Outreach | Dealing with grief

Our When Families Grieve program was developed to help children summon the strength to heal after the death of a parent.

About 2.5 million American children under age 18 have experienced the death of a parent, including the more than 12,000 who have lost a parent in the military over the past eight years. While nothing can fully shelter a child from the impact of such a loss, When Families Grieve outreach materials have proven to provide some comfort.

The effort includes two outreach kits in both English and Spanish — one specifically for military families, as part of our larger efforts to support these families, and another for the general public — along with community events and a primetime TV special hosted by Katie Couric and the cast of Sesame Street. Through DVDs, family activities, and books included in the kits, Elmo and his friends encourage children to open up about their feelings to help relieve the sadness, anxiety, and confusion they often experience. An accompanying educates parents and caregivers on strategies for discussing death with children and reassuring them that, with love and time, things will get better.

So far, close to 1 million When Families Grieve outreach kits have been distributed to families and grief service providers nationwide,1 and 83 percent of caregivers using the kit feel they “have more appropriate language to better discuss death with my child.” Just as remarkable, 95 percent of those who received these educational materials used them, with 91 percent of caregivers rating them “Good” or “Excellent.”2 That kind of support is no small solace in times of grief.

Major support provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, BAE Systems, the Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund, Lockheed Martin, and the New York Life Foundation. Additional support provided by the McCormick Foundation, the Walmart Foundation, the New York State Office of Mental Health, and USO.

1 Sesame Workshop project records, 2011.
2Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, Uniformed Services University. (2011).“Preliminary Findings from the Talk, Listen, Connect III:  When Families Grieve KitEvaluation,