Grief Support for Schools

About COJ School Grief Support Groups

Our School-based K-12 Grief Support program helps transform schools into grief-informed spaces where students can process complicated feelings of grief and loss, connect with a caring community, and build a toolbox of critical wellness and resiliency skills.

We collaborate with over 50 public, private, and parochial schools to provide monthly grief support, while also responding to school crisis situations as part of our region’s SERA Collaborative. We work alongside administrators and counselors to build a grief-sensitive culture where bereaved students and staff feel loved, accepted, and supported. Our monthly school-based groups are co-facilitated by a COJ Bereavement Specialist and the school counselor and supported by our social work interns who provide added mentorship for students. Students engage in crafts and exercises that promote mental and physical well-being. All of these activities are tailored to the student’s developmental stage and provide a fun, relatable platform where grief can be shared and students feel heard and supported by caring adults and their peers.

This group has helped me get through the school year and be who I really am around others.

- High School Group Participant

I like that we get to express our feelings… and let some grief/weight off of our shoulders.
- Middle School Group Participant

My belief is schools are the ideal setting for which to provide support to children and families in the wake of loss, disaster, and trauma.

- Dr. Dan Nelson, Medical Director, Child Psychiatry Unit, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

In addition to monthly group sessions, we offer printed and digital educational resources; education and training for school staff; crisis support for school communities; tailored activities for bereaved adolescents; and support groups and healing activities for families. Most importantly, COJ’s School-based Program is tailored to the unique needs of each school community using a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) Framework.

Unlike many traditional grief support offerings, COJ’s School-Based Bereavement Program is ongoing, with many students grateful for COJ’s continual, multi-year support as they navigate their personal grief journey amidst critical childhood and adolescent years. Many of the students we serve have been part of COJ groups for many years – some up to 10 years! For them, COJ has become a safe haven as they experience so many critical milestones of childhood without their mom, dad, or sibling to celebrate with and support them.

In Ohio, it’s estimated that 1 in 10 children and teens will experience the death of a parent or sibling by their 18th birthday. Children and teens are often referred to as the ‘forgotten grievers.’ Because their grief can often look different than an adult’s grief, it’s easy to brush off their losses and proclaim ‘Children are so resilient!’ However, research reveals that grief can disrupt a child’s sleeping and eating patterns; their ability to concentrate; form healthy thought patterns; express emotions, and develop attachments to others. Left unaddressed, this can lead to risky behaviors, drops in grades, depression, self-isolation, and other traumatic grief reactions.

The good news? Grief support, which is sensitive to cultural background and focuses on social skills, relaxation, expression, coping skills, and identifying triggers is an effective intervention for lowering poor outcomes for bereaved students (Ferow, 2019).

Bring Companions on a Journey to your school district.

Consultation & Education for Caregivers and Staff

In addition to monthly group sessions, we assist schools in creating a grief-sensitive environment through our education and training programs for caregivers and school staff. We help participants understand how adversity, loss, and trauma shape the behaviors, learning, relationships, and well-being of children and adolescents. We know and research supports that the presence of caring, responsive adult relationships helps reduce the stress, anxiety, depression, and social isolation in children who have experienced grief and loss.

Professional development sessions for school personnel range in length from 1-hour to full-day training. Skill-based, in-depth training sessions are available for school-based counselors and social workers. Our caregiver education sessions are typically 1-2 hours in length and take place on weekday evenings to accommodate work schedules. These sessions can be delivered virtually or at your preferred location.

As so many aspects of our lives have changed and will continue to change, know that Companions on a Journey is here to help. We continue to expand our training and resources to help educators and schools navigate these challenging times.

To learn more about the training available to you and to your school, please email griefsupport@companionsonajourney.org or call us at 513-870-9108 for details.

Crisis Response & Postvention Support

COJ responds to crisis calls from local schools left shattered by the death of a student or staff member within their community. In partnership with Cincinnati’s SERA Collaborative, our team of bereavement specialists work with schools and our community partners to provide critical postvention services to students and staff.

Our Services Include:

  • Crisis Supports for Students, Staff, and Administrators
  • Bereavement Consultation & Education
  • Postvention Efforts to Ensure the Safety, Well-being, and Health of Students & Staff
  • Partnership with Schools to Develop Bereavement Protocols & Crisis
  • Response Plans

To learn more about how our support services can be a part of your school’s crisis response plan, please email griefsupport@companionsonajourney.org or call us at 513-870-9108 for details.

Pathway to Healing Events

COJ hosts a variety of Pathway to Healing events throughout the year to support bereaved individuals and families. These events are a safe, fun way to provide bereaved children, teens, and families with an opportunity to honor their loved ones, strengthen family bonds, and find hope. They also provide the opportunity to form friendships with other families in the community who are grieving. Please visit our events page for upcoming dates!

Schools We Serve in Southwest Ohio

Learn more about the impact of COJ’s School-Based Grief Support Program from school counselors at our partner schools.

Schools We Serve

  • Bridgeport Elementary
  • Brookwood Elementary
  • Crawford Woods Elementary School
  • Fairwood Elementary
  • Garfield Middle School
  • Hamilton High School
  • Hamilton High School Freshman
  • Campus
  • Highland Elementary
  • Linden Elementary
  • Miami School
  • Ridgeway Elementary
  • Riverview Elementary
  • Wilson Middle School
  • Adena Elementary School
  • Cherokee Elementary
  • Endeavor Elementary
  • Freedom Elementary
  • Heritage Early Childhood
  • Hopewell Junior
  • Independence Elementary
  • Lakota Academy
  • Lakota East Freshman School
  • Lakota East High School
  • Lakota West Freshman School
  • Lakota West High School
  • Liberty Early Childhood
  • Liberty Junior
  • Plains Junior
  • Ridge Junior
  • Shawnee Early Childhood
  • Union Elementary
  • VanGorden Elementary
  • Woodland Elementary
  • Wyandot Early Childhood
  • Highview 6th Grade Center
  • Middletown Middle School
  • Wildwood Elementary School
  • Delhi Middle School
  • Oak Hills High School
  • Elda Elementary
  • Morgan Elementary
  • Ross High School
  • Ross Intermediate
  • Ross Middle School
  • Archbishop Moeller High School
  • Cincinnati Country Day School
  • Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy
  • Elder High School
  • La Salle High School
  • Mount Notre Dame High School
  • Seton High School
  • Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School

Resources for Schools

For resources to share with your school staff and caregivers, visit our Resources page.

I just wanted to, again, tell you how appreciative we are for the support that you all were able to provide today. There is never enough time to plan for a tragic event like this one but to get everyone there and have a plan in place before kids arrived was beyond amazing. There are no words to describe the need for help today and because of you all, we were able to make it through the day. Again, thank you so very much.

- Matt Crapo

Director of Student Services, Fairfield City Schools

This uniquely challenging year generated a multitude of physical and mental health concerns in our community. Several families experienced much grief surrounding the deaths of loved ones. Ridge Junior School in the Lakota Local Schools was familiar with this loss and grief, especially this past year. Many of the students and staff dealt with grief and were supported by the amazing organization, Companions on a Journey (COJ).

COJ provided monthly support groups at Ridge. The year began with approximately 20 members. The groups met over delicious pizza lunch and Takis snacks (favorites of the junior high students). Rich, meaningful conversations sprinkled with connection activities provided healing and growth. Students had a safe space to make connections while learning ways to process grief and celebrate their loved ones. By the spring, the COJ participants grew to 60 members!

COJ not only came to the school, but they also reached out to our families in the community. They provided resources to the families who experienced loss and even attended memorial services for these families. The presence and love of COJ was felt all year!

Ridge is so very grateful to Faith, Sheila, and all of the interns that supported us this year. COJ is an organization that all schools and community members can utilize. This group is educated in grief support and dedicated to making a difference. Their love and commitment are truly felt! We look forward to welcoming COJ back in the fall.

- Kelly Carstens

Ridge Junior High School, Lakota Local Schools