General Questions

Why only young adults?

Illness and death of loved ones is devastating for anyone at any age. We are specifically gathering young adults because we’ve found that the experience of grief in this community can sometimes come with its own unique isolation that we want to help undo. Grief support geared specifically towards young adults is scarce in comparison to grief support for older adults and children. For some young adults, they are among the first in their friend group to lose someone close, which can leave them without a peer community to turn to. Especially in the midst of a pandemic that is preventing folks from gathering and grieving in the ways we have in the past, we want to connect young adults to volunteer grief workers who can offer company in the wild ride of grief, and to other young adults who can say “me too.”

Aren’t there more kinds of grief than just grief that has to do with death?

Yes, absolutely. Loss takes many forms beyond illness and physical death — life-altering changes in employment, housing, education and training, and access to stability and predictability are all especially present during this pandemic. We hope for everyone to receive the support they need in navigating these various forms of grief. For now, with our limited resources and capacities, we are responding directly to grief due to the death of a loved one to COVID-19. We are focusing on specific grief for a specific crowd so we can do that really well.

Who are the Network organizers and how did this project get started?

The Network was created by volunteers. We are a group of therapists, chaplains, and community organizers who saw an emerging need and decided to respond with this Network. Many of us are young adults who have experienced big personal losses ourselves, and know how powerful it can be to have company in grief. This Network is a representation of the community we need and are helping to create in the world.

The Network was inspired and supported in part by the leadership of the NYC COVID Care Network and RUACH: Emotional and Spiritual Support. We are grateful for the individuals who consulted with us and for our ongoing partnerships. 

For a complete list of the Network organizers and affiliates, please click here.

Didn’t the Network used to offer one-on-one support? What happened to that?

It’s true, the Network initially began by only offering one-on-one support for young adults grieving the loss or illness of someone close to COVID-19. Based on the feedback we’ve gotten from the CGN community over the first year of our Network and seeing that the need to undo isolation is as great as ever, we think we can have the biggest impact by focusing on and expanding our group offerings. While our one-on-one support offerings have been tremendously impactful, we have found that our grief groups get to the heart of our mission of undoing isolation by providing opportunities for ongoing relationships and peer-to-peer accompaniment.

What makes this mutual aid?

As a mutual aid network, we connect young adults who are grieving the death of someone close to COVID-19 with other grieving young adults in a support group setting. Our volunteer grief workers, who facilitate these groups, come from many different backgrounds: some are trained social workers, therapists, spiritual directors, chaplains, or clergy or lay people with chaplaincy training. Some of our volunteers are current graduate school students in these fields, studying towards a professional degree. Others identify as healing practitioners from mindfulness or other healing modalities. Some of our volunteers come from a peer facilitation background, and have a loss story of their own that motivated them to learn to hold space for others. All of our volunteers self-identify as trained “grief workers,” folks who know how to show up for and listen to people who are grieving. Our volunteers do not, however, provide professional, clinical, or therapeutic services through the network, regardless of their history of training.

For Young Adults Seeking Support

What kind of support do you offer? For how long?

Our mission is to provide immediate, short term support with the hope of building long term connections. We offer group support (8 sessions) where young adults can connect with other young adults in grief. These groups are facilitated by a volunteer grief worker (aka “group facilitator”). After these 8 sessions, many groups elect to continue meeting less formally, without the support of a CGN group facilitator. Also, as a member of the COVID Grief Network, you will have access to our online Facebook community to connect with other young adults experiencing pandemic grief.

Who are the volunteer grief workers?

Our volunteer grief workers (aka “group facilitators”) come from many different backgrounds: some are trained social workers, therapists, spiritual directors, chaplains, or clergy or lay people with chaplaincy training. Some of our volunteers are current graduate school students in these fields, studying towards a professional degree. Others identify as healing practitioners from mindfulness or other healing modalities. Some of our volunteers come from a peer facilitation background, and have a loss story of their own that motivated them to learn to hold space for others. All of our volunteers self-identify as trained “grief workers,” folks who know how to show up for and listen to people who are grieving. Our volunteers do not, however, provide professional, clinical, or therapeutic services through the network, regardless of their history of training.

What does group support look like?

Grief support groups are for young adults in their 20s and 30s who have experienced a COVID loss. These virtual groups are organized into cohorts of up to 12 young adults, and meet weekly for 1.5 hours over the course of 8 weeks. We ask that group members commit to showing up each week; these are intended as spaces where a small group of young adults can build community together.

These groups are lightly facilitated by volunteers (“group facilitators”) who have group facilitation and grief support experience, though we hold that these groups are primarily peer-directed by the group members themselves. We have found that the magic of these groups lies in the balance of a flexible, responsive, and moderately structured space where the hopes and wishes of the young adults in the group largely determine group direction, conversation, and process. Young adults in our groups share that they’ve cultivated connection and community that they have not found elsewhere in their lives – they’ve found people who really get what it means to grieve a COVID loss.

How are groups formed?

Once you fill out a request-for-support form and are accepted to the Network, you will receive a link to register for a group based on your availability. Groups take place over Zoom. Some of the groups offered are loss- or identity-specific. Groups begin on a rolling basis so you have flexibility in the registration process.

What if I don’t like my group?

If you’re struggling with something in your group, we first recommend respectful, thoughtful, and direct communication with your group facilitator around what might not be working. If sharing directly with your group facilitator doesn’t work, that’s what the COVID Grief Network organizers are here for. Please email us at covidgriefnetwork@gmail.com and tell us a little bit about what’s not working and how we can better support you. Someone from our team will reach out shortly after you get in touch.

Can my partner/children/family participate with me?

We’re so glad you want to share this experience with others. In this time of great need, we would love to offer this service to everyone. Right now we’re focusing on offering support to folks in their 20s and 30s who have lost someone close to COVID-19. If your partner or someone in your family fits the bill, they are welcome to fill out a request-for-support form for group support!

For Volunteer Group Facilitators

Do I qualify as a volunteer grief worker?

We see grief work taking a variety of forms in this present moment. While we are primarily composed of therapists, chaplains, spiritual directors, grief counselors, facilitators, coaches, mindfulness practitioners, and healers, anyone 18 or older who self-identifies as a trained volunteer grief worker and has group facilitation experience may apply here to volunteer in the COVID Grief Network.

Do I need to be licensed to qualify as a volunteer grief worker?

No, you do not need to be licensed to qualify as a volunteer grief worker. We recognize that students, those in training, and those who practice in unlicensed modalities are among those skilled in offering grief support, and we welcome them.

Please note that even if a volunteer is licensed, they will only be providing grief support, and will not be providing professional mental health or spiritual care under their licensure.

How much time am I expected to put into this?

To ensure that our Network runs smoothly and that young adults feel supported we expect volunteers to make the following commitments:

  • Running 2 virtual groups over a 6 month period (i.e. one 8-week group, a 6-week break, then a second 8-week group)
  • Attending monthly group facilitator meetings
  • Connecting with another facilitator buddy between meetings
  • Responding to emails from the Network within 48 hours
I’m not a volunteer grief worker. How else can I get involved?

Amazing! We all have different skills to bring to the table. We are currently looking for support with these roles:

    • Outreach and Communications  — help us connect to networks of young adults and volunteer grief workers (3-5hrs/wk)

If any of these roles appeal to you, or if you have an idea of a role you would like to suggest, please reach out at covidgriefnetwork@gmail.com and let us know about your interest.

What support will I receive as a volunteer grief worker?

As a volunteer grief worker, you will have access to the support of the other volunteer grief workers and the Network at large. We do not supervise or extensively train volunteers. Volunteers are onboarded to the Network through a short training, and are given a sense of our values, orientation, purpose, and the legal bounds of the support they can offer. They are connected with another group facilitator buddy and are part of a cohort of around 10 other group facilitators with whom they meet monthly.

Please note: even the volunteers that are licensed therapists are not offering “therapy” in their work through the Network; they are offering short-term, supportive listening for young adults in need.