For those who are grieving, HealGrief.org offers unique bereavement support
“Grief is not something we ‘get over,’ we merely learn to manage it, differently, day-by-day. We can never cure death. But we can heal grief.” —Fran Solomon, HealGrief.org
Last December, a friend of mine lost her husband, and her children, their father. Last week, another friend of mine lost her husband, and her son, his father. Both times, my first response was to refer these suddenly Solo Moms to HealGrief.org, an online social support network for people grieving and bereaved. Founded by my friend Fran Solomon, HealGrief.org has evolved into the “go to” resource for those in need of guidance and support in the most difficult of times.
Now a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, Solomon began her working career as a couture lingerie importer. Grief was the furthest thing from her mind—until the death of her father. Her practical approach to his passing proved to be unsuccessful when, upon the birth of her daughter, uncontrollable and painful emotions surfaced. As a salve, she began volunteering at a community grief-support agency and slowly discovered that moments of deep grief could blossom into lovely reminiscence.
In her own grief journey, Solomon observed that grief tends to be an issue that nobody wants to address. She found there to be a need for an immediate resource for the bereaved offering the best in support. “With an average of two people dying every second, we have the potential to serve the millions of those left behind.”
Q: What is your mission?
A: My personal mission is to ensure there is always a place for people around the world to celebrate the lives of those they love as well as a place for those bereaved to be guided through their grief to a healthy recovery.
The mission of HealGrief.org is to support the bereaved by offering a virtual location where people can communicate a death, connect, mourn, heal, and celebrate a loved one’s life. Our commitment is to provide an understanding of grief by increasing awareness and offering resources for support.
Q: How would you describe HealGrief.org’s original “take” on grief?
A: We’re different in that we challenge the notion that grief is something someone just “gets over.” We believe that remembering and celebrating a loved one’s life will aid in a healthy grief recovery. Everybody is different. We offer information about grief that’s specific to one’s own scenario: their personal relationship with a loved one, their story, and their grief. And we provide tools and resources to guide each person on their own grief journey.
We engage in the uncomfortable conversation of mortality, and normalize it. Death is life’s most inevitable event. We empower people to be remembered in the way they want.
Q: What inspired you to start HealGrief?
A: I feel complete when I give of myself. As good fortune has come my way in life, it feels good to share rather than keep it. I firmly believe that we rise as people when we lift others along the way.
My passion lies in helping others deal with grief and bereavement. While there are so many worthy causes, grief is universal. I created HealGrief.org because I believe the memories of those gone should remain with us to cherish for the rest of our lives.
Q: What sort of support do you offer?
A: HealGrief.org offers many programs and resources for those who are grieving, including the following:
- Celebrate a Life. We offer a no-fee-based platform to communicate a death to family and friends across the world. They, in turn, can express condolences, share memories, and even light virtual candles. The death notice is beautifully converted into an online celebration of a life and is a virtual legacy.
- The Loss Project and Artful Healing. The Loss Project merges psychology and photography, artistically exploring the human condition as it relates to loss. Artful Healing is an online gallery where you can share imagery in the form of a photo that honors your grief and loss experience.
- Before I Die. This is a virtual wall prompting thoughts about living life to its fullest every day.
- Pets Count Too! This service offers a place for those who have lost a pet to create a pet memorial. It also offers life tools for families to guide children into a healthy grief recovery after the death of a pet (which often is a child’s first experience with death).
- Designing Your Own Good-Byes. This tool inspires conversation for one’s end-of-life wishes.
- Online Programming. This is a virtual platform where one can communicate a loved one’s death.
- Education and Awareness. This section of the website provides information, resources, and tools to guide one’s grief journey into a healthy grief experience.
Q: What is AMF (Actively Moving Forward)?
A: One in every three college students is grieving a loved one’s death or the diagnosis of a terminal illness. This is a particularly vulnerable demographic, as most students have never experienced the death of a loved one. They are often away from home for the first time, without their usual support system; they have inadequate peer support and empathy; there are limited resources for grief support on campuses; and, of course, they are under the usual academic pressures. These factors put them at a high risk for a host of troubling issues.
AMF (Actively Moving Forward) is a HealGrief program that connects, supports, and empowers grieving college students. They are given the tools for a healthy recovery and assured that grief is normal, it is not depression, and suicide is never an option. The program has served thousands of college students on more than 200 campuses across the country.
Q: What about high school– and middle school–aged students?
A: Right now we are specifically college-focused, but many campus and bereavement centers for young people exist throughout the country. Refer to the Local & National Support section of HealGrief.org for links.
Q: What words of wisdom would you give a mother dealing with loss?
A: A mother will be equally torn between finances and how to go on. She sometimes has to find a job after being out of the workforce for years. Regardless, finances; paying the bills; keeping the family home; and knowing how to care for her children in the face of her own grief, what to say, how to say it, and when to say it are usually overwhelming concerns. And because no one is taught how to handle grief, most of us don’t know how to cope with it, which often leads to isolation.
My advice would be to understand there are no rules, no manuals, and no guidelines. It is often helpful to speak of the loved one who is gone. Remember that although one is left behind, he or she who has passed continues to live within our hearts and minds—that needs to be recognized, not forgotten. Though it may be difficult at first, continue traditions and remember birthdays, anniversaries, and special days. Tears of sadness can eventually turn into smiles from memories we hold so deeply.
Q: Why the hummingbird logo?
A: The hummingbird is a small and fragile creature, often taken to be a symbol of resurrection. It becomes lifeless and appears to die as its body is chilled on cold nights. But as the sun brings warmth back to its body, miraculously it appears to come back to life and take flight again.
Kathleen Laccinole, ESME’s Dating Resource Guide, has penned numerous films and parenting books but is best known for producing the highly lauded Greta, age 20, and William, age 16.
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