Big News About the Future of the COVID Grief Network

To the CGN community,

We are thrilled to announce that the COVID Grief Network is now an official fiscally-sponsored project of Reimagine, a community-driven nonprofit on a mission to transform the world by facing adversity, loss, and death, together. Partnering with Reimagine will open up new avenues for programmatic collaboration, expand and deepen our community, and provide our organization with critical operational and fundraising support. Ultimately, this partnership will enable us to sustain our work and scale its impact beyond what we ever anticipated. We could not be more excited and humbled to step into this next phase, and we are grateful for Reimagine’s support in actualizing a long-term vision for the COVID Grief Network.

As part of this transition, CGN will be shifting our program offerings. We will no longer be offering one-on-one support, and we will be growing and deepening our group support program. We know that our mission of undoing the isolation of COVID grief is as timely and important as ever, especially as many people “get back to normal” while those grieving a loss adjust to a world without their loved one. We also know that offering transformational group support gets to the heart of our mission by providing opportunities for ongoing relationships and peer-to-peer accompaniment. Our one-on-one offerings have been tremendously impactful, and we’re so grateful for the invaluable support of our volunteer grief workers and the bravery of the young adults who make up our community. If you want to read more about the impact that CGN has made, check out our annual report.

These strategic organizational decisions have been made with careful consideration for how to best advance our mission. We are honored to be able to continue this meaningful work and truly appreciate our community’s ongoing support and love in the process.

With gratitude,
The CGN Leadership Team

Volunteer Spotlight: Amy Morse

For National Volunteer Week, we’re highlighting the incredible work of our volunteers. We’ll be showcasing short interviews with our volunteer grief workers to share their wisdom and express our gratitude for their commitment to supporting pandemic grievers. 

Name: Amy Morse
Age: 65
Location: Half time on a tiny farm in Southeastern MA and half time on a barrier island in Florida
Profession: Clinical social worker, Retired teacher, and professional developer

Why do you volunteer with COVID Grief Network (CGN)?
We each experience grief: sometimes the engulfing, life-changing grief of loss, and sometimes the quieter, less public grief of unexpected or unwanted shifts in daily life. In the past few years, I have experienced the loss of beloved family members and close friends in a very compact period of time. The comfort of companionship and validation of recognition made a difficult time more bearable and tender. In this pandemic time, comfort seemed scarce and elusive, and I wanted to help change that for others.

What has supporting young adults in our network taught you?
The young adults have taught me that resilience is a fierce thing, something with shape and muscle – attainable even if in the far distance. My interactions with young adults have taught me that this age group is uniquely ripe, responsive, and reflective. I give total credit to the young adults I’ve talked with since last summer for building my capacity to see and to listen to what needs to be understood about grief, and for that and for you, I am very grateful.

Do you have a message for young adults in grief?
You are not obliged to do anything differently or better in order to “grieve well.” We are wired for sense-making and this will come to pass, this sometimes arduous task of what it means to grieve. It seems the sadness can, remarkably, make one’s heart stronger – not broken after all.

What’s your preferred method of self-care?
Making things. Creating something can be a hedge against overwhelm, sadness, distress. I love clay – a most forgiving of materials. Even if it’s my 20th wonky bowl of the day, I’ve lost myself in the playfulness of creating it and that is a time of solace for me.

Are you interested in volunteering with the COVID Grief Network? Learn more and apply here. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Kimberly Malone

For National Volunteer Week, we’re highlighting the incredible work of our volunteers. We’ll be showcasing short interviews with our volunteer grief workers to share their wisdom and express our gratitude for their commitment to supporting pandemic grievers. 

Name: Kimberly Malone
Location: Mahwah, NJ
Profession: Spiritual Director

Why do you volunteer with COVID Grief Network (CGN)?
I was 20 years old when my father passed away suddenly in an accident. It was hard trailblazing this kind of grief and loss among my peers. My friends didn’t always know what to say or how to respond, and my family was also grieving. After the initial shock I was longing for a non-judgemental space to sort out what I was thinking and feeling. I’m grateful to be able to offer this to other young people who are navigating their own unique experiences of loss and grief.

What has supporting young adults in our network taught you?
My conversations with the young adults in the COVID Grief Network have pressed upon me the devastating impact of COVID-19. For some people this pandemic feels distant, harmless, or unbelievable, but it is not any of those things for the people who have lost a loved one. Every young person I’ve met with has tried to put to words the added trauma of co-workers, friends, and strangers minimizing the pandemic.

Do you have a message for young adults in grief?
Grief is so strange. All of a sudden it’s like you’re in an alternate reality where time functions differently, priorities instantly change, routine tasks become exhausting, and your head fills with a fog and a movie projector with specific moments and conversations on loop. I think every young person I’ve talked to has marveled at some point, “I don’t feel like myself.” The worst is not knowing how long it will last or if this is a new reality.

Like many of the young people I have had the opportunity to talk with, I didn’t choose grief. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to figure it out. I preferred feeling like I was capable, confident, and in control. Grief felt too disorienting. At the time I wasn’t curious or open to feeling pain, I was more focused on getting through it as fast as I could.

Losing my dad was one of my first significant experiences of grief, but I’ve had others since then. I’m grateful that grief is more familiar now. I can recognize it, in myself and in others, and I’m not so scared of it anymore. I can see that every experience of grief comes with an invitation to pause, feel, and discover. Each loss offers the opportunity to learn more about grieving, something you will need to do over and over again if you invest in others, take bold risks, and love deeply.

What’s your preferred method of self-care?
Lately, my preferred method of self care has been a regular morning swim. I love the pause before the day starts, the quiet, the rhythm of the strokes, the focused breathing, feeling my muscles move, and the space to work things out, pray, or not think of anything at all.

Are you interested in volunteering with the COVID Grief Network? Learn more and apply here. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Anna Del Castillo

For National Volunteer Week, we’re highlighting the incredible work of our volunteers. We’ll be showcasing short interviews with our volunteer grief workers to share their wisdom and express our gratitude for their commitment to supporting pandemic grievers. 

Name: Anna Del Castillo
Age: 25
Location: Cambridge, MA
Profession: Graduate Student at Harvard Divinity School

Why do you volunteer with COVID Grief Network (CGN)?
The last 15 months have profoundly shifted all our realities. Amid grief, struggle, and loss, I want to hold space for others to process their emotions. CGN allows me to connect with other wayfarers on the journey and share some light during moments of struggle.

What has supporting young adults in our network taught you?
We are all interconnected. The simplest act, like listening or offering a prayer can change someone’s day and even their life.

Do you have a message for young adults in grief?
Lean on your community and take time to be still and rest. May you be covered in light.

What’s your preferred method of self-care?
Walking along the Charles River or going to Walden Pond. Listening to the sounds of nature and being next to water allows me to slow down and connect with my spirit.

Are you interested in volunteering with the COVID Grief Network? Learn more and apply here. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Ashley Plotnick

For National Volunteer Week, we’re highlighting the incredible work of our volunteers. We’ll be showcasing short interviews with our volunteer grief workers to share their wisdom and express our gratitude for their commitment to supporting pandemic grievers. 

Name: Ashley Plotnick
Age: 40
Location: Deerfield, IL
Profession: Psychotherapist, Spiritual Director, Jewish Educator

Why do you volunteer with COVID Grief Network (CGN)?
I initially signed up to volunteer with CGN because I wanted some way to contribute meaningfully during such an overwhelming period of grief and instability in our world. However, the impact of CGN continues to amaze me beyond my expectations. From my very first training with the founders, it was clear the network is truly something special. There is an authentic commitment to growth, healing, spaciousness, and collaboration that is a gift both to the volunteers and to the young adults. That unique energy inspires me to continue to say yes to the work.

What has supporting young adults in our network taught you?
I have learned so much from the young adults in our network. Their capacity for vulnerability, truth, and presence is so strong even in the midst of so much pain. I also am in awe of the group which I am honored to facilitate. These young adults show up week after week to hold space for that which is both true and hard. By doing so, they create space not only for their own healing journey, but for the healing of their peers as well.

Do you have a message for young adults in grief?
To our young adults: You are utterly brave as you walk through the darkness of this time.

Jan Richardson says it best in her poem “Stay:”

I know how your mind
rushes ahead
trying to fathom
what could follow this.
What will you do,
where will you go,
how will you live?
You will want
to outrun the grief.
You will want
to keep turning toward
the horizon,
watching for what was lost
to come back,
to return to you
and never leave again.
For now
hear me when I say
all you need to do
is to still yourself
is to turn toward one another
is to stay.
Wait
and see what comes
to fill
the gaping hole
in your chest.
Wait with your hands open
to receive what could never come
except to what is empty
and hollow.
You cannot know it now,
cannot even imagine
what lies ahead,
but I tell you
the day is coming
when breath will
fill your lungs
as it never has before
and with your own ears
you will hear words
coming to you new
and startling.
You will dream dreams
and you will see the world
ablaze with blessing.
Wait for it.
Still yourself.
Stay.

What’s your preferred method of self-care?
Laughter, dance parties with my kids, walking my dog, connecting with friends, and lavender baths.

Are you interested in volunteering with the COVID Grief Network? Learn more and apply here. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Shaunesse’ Jacobs

For National Volunteer Week, we’re highlighting the incredible work of our volunteers. We’ll be showcasing short interviews with our volunteer grief workers to share their wisdom and express our gratitude for their commitment to supporting pandemic grievers. 

Name: Shaunesse’ Jacobs
Age: 28
Location: Cambridge, MA
Profession: PhD Student in Theology and Ethics

Why do you volunteer with COVID Grief Network (CGN)?
I experienced a months-long battle with COVID-19 March-May 2020, and I remember the isolation, loneliness, and fear during those early days when information was sparse and support was nonexistent. Although still struggling with symptoms, I’m grateful to be alive and help others dealing with these emotions in any way I can because we can only overcome the heart wrenching effects of this virus together.

What has supporting young adults in our network taught you?
From this experience, I’ve learned how to love myself and my growing edges by being in community with amazing young adults who are actively working to love themselves holistically despite their loss. I’m learning to take the steps to support my wholeness because I get to witness the young adults taking steps to support their wholeness each week.

Do you have a message for young adults in grief?
You’re beautiful as you are. We see you. We love you. We hear you. We support you. You are already getting through this dark hour and you’re encouraging others that they can get through this dark hour as well.

What’s your preferred method of self-care?
My preferred method of self-care is eating ice cream, at minimum weekly, and listening to music that touches the depths of my soul.

Are you interested in volunteering with the COVID Grief Network? Learn more and apply here. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Ylisse Bess

For National Volunteer Week, we’re highlighting the incredible work of our volunteers. We’ll be showcasing short interviews with our volunteer grief workers to share their wisdom and express our gratitude for their commitment to supporting pandemic grievers. 

Name: Ylisse Bess
Age: 30
Location: Boston, MA
Profession: Chaplain

Why do you volunteer with COVID Grief Network (CGN)?
I want to show up for people in ways that work for them and CGN strives to make that possible. Young adults are able to say “I am Black, queer, spiritual, practice tarot and am a Libra, and I’d like to be accompanied by someone like me or not at all like me” and CGN will try to do that. And that’s something I can get behind.

What has supporting young adults in our network taught you?
The major shift during the pandemic to virtual accompaniment and spiritual/emotional support made me wonder if people could really feel cared for over the phone or a screen. But I’ve learned that accompaniment and care are expansive. Sometimes people just need someone to sit with them in the quiet of a zoom call and that’s enough.

Do you have a message for young adults in grief?
You’ve got people around the world ready to try to have your back in ways that work for you. I know, because I’m one of them!

What’s your preferred method of self-care?
Roller skating to 90’s R&B and cycling to a good audiobook.

Are you interested in volunteering with the COVID Grief Network? Learn more and apply here.