Family Grief Support: Hands on Healing

What is Hands on Healing? 

Full Circle’s Hands on Healing (HOH) groups support children ages 3-17 and their adult caregiver who have experienced the loss of someone significant to them. In HOH, we incorporate art-based interventions to support children and families in exploring their feelings all while connecting with others who have also experienced a loss. 

The Registration Process

Families who reach out and express interest in the program will participate in a phone call with our Family Bereavement Services Director, Rachel Melhorn. Rachel will take time to learn about your family and your loss, as well as share details about the group and connect your family with additional services or resources in our area that may be helpful.

After registration paperwork is completed, Rachel meets with parents and guardians individually to gather more information so we can best support the families we serve. We take this comprehensive approach so we can tailor our groups to meet the needs of those families who participate. 

The Group Process
Our HOH groups typically serve 10-12 families at a time and are “closed” groups, which means that the same families attend each week for the entire eight week series. We believe this model helps build trust and safety among participants and allows children and families to develop meaningful connections as they share their stories of loss. 

Our eight week group runs weekly in the evening for an hour and a half. When families arrive, they will be given the opportunity to settle in and connect with others over dinner. Some of our youngest group members lovingly refer to HOH as “pizza group.”

Beginning in 2021, we are excited to announce that we will be offering these groups in varying locations in our community to increase accessibility and better serve a variety of families across the Richmond region. 

After dinner, all group participants circle up to begin our family activity. For this portion of the evening, we facilitate an activity for families to do together that focuses on topics such as feelings, coping strategies, family goals, and opportunities to remember their loved one. Group members are given a chance to connect and share with other families as well during this process. We believe the family portion of our groups to be a cornerstone of our program and an important element in allowing families to grieve and heal together.

After the family activity, group members will separate into small groups for the remaining 45 minutes of the evening. Youth will be in a small group with other children their age and adults will participate in a separate group. The purpose of our youth groups is to support children in exploring their feelings of grief and loss while learning coping strategies to help support them in their grief. Youth groups also provide children with an invaluable experience of being with other children who have also experienced a loss. Our adult groups provide guardians with an opportunity to share and process their own feelings of loss, while also providing opportunities to learn and discuss issues relevant to supporting and parenting grieving children. 

Throughout the eight week session, our leaders complete check-in calls to connect with guardians regarding their child’s progress and to provide additional support and resources when appropriate.

What Comes Next?

After families complete our eight week groups, they continue to receive support from our Full Circle team. We provide ongoing case management, as needed, to support children and families. Our staff also provides regular check-in phone calls and  mails anniversary cards to past participants as a way to stay connected to all of the children and families who have participated in our program. 

Thanks for taking the time to learn about our family groups! If you have any questions about at all, please feel free to reach out to Rachel Melhorn, Family Bereavement Services Coordinator.