Family-to-Family program

The Family-to-Family program is designed to match parent volunteers with newly bereaved parents to offer them emotional support.

Why it’s important

When a child dies, the grief that follows can be intense and devastating. As much as family and friends want to understand, it may be difficult for them to grasp the enormity of this life-changing event. It is often helpful for parents to talk to other bereaved parents who are further along in their grief process in order to learn that their reactions are normal and expected. This connection can offer hope in the midst of the despair that is often present after the death of a child.

How it works

Family-to-Family volunteers are specially trained and must make a two-year commitment to the program. Matches are made based on the several criteria, including: age of child at death, circumstances of child’s death, surviving siblings, decision to withdraw life support (if applicable) and family/cultural issues. When parents request a match, they can indicate which criteria are most important to them. Once the match is made, the expectation is that the volunteer will be in contact with the parent for a minimum of one year. The volunteer and the parent agree upon the amount of contact that the parent has with his or her volunteer.

Types of contact between parents and volunteers include:

  • Phone calls
  • Email exchanges
  • Cards sent to parents by volunteers
  • Regular mail exchanges
  • In-person visits, such as meeting for coffee
  • Visits to gravesites

What parents say about the program

Parents who received support from Family-to-Family volunteers, say the program was helpful because:

  • It was a way to “discuss a wide range of issues associated with our grief”
  • Provided “trust and friendship.” The volunteer was the, “one person who hasn’t judged my feelings… We helped each other heal in ways someone who has never lost a child couldn’t.”
  • “[The volunteer] affirmed all my feelings and reactions as normal and shared her own when appropriate, which helped me identify my feelings and feel that I was normal and not alone.”
  • It was “nice to have someone to connect with and feel not so alone.”
  • “My husband and I grieved very differently. I wanted to talk; he didn’t. There was a lot of tension building up. Talking with my volunteer gave me an outlet, which helped to ease the tension between my husband and me.”
  • “I needed someone outside my home to talk to. In this new life where ‘normal’ has been re-defined, it was comforting to talk to someone who was/is also a grieving parent. How much easier it would have been to shut myself out of this world (isolate myself). For me I needed the human contact.”
  • “My volunteer and I have remarkable parallels in terms of family composition, including the brief lives of our third baby. Because of her experience in balancing grief with raising two other children, she was able to lend wisdom and perspective.”

For more information about Family-to-Family please contact Bereavement Services at [email protected] or call 612-813-7346.


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