Full Circle Grief Center was founded in 2008 in response to the great need in Central Virginia to help families who had experienced the death of a loved one – most often a parent, child or spouse. Those families and their at-risk children were too often grieving in isolation without support – and often did not have the funds to pursue private counseling or other forms of grief support. Without intervention, these families are at higher risk for drug abuse, alcoholism, depression, anxiety disorders and other health issues. The risk is high for that family to break apart. Our programs have touched more than 9,000 lives.
Full Circle is the only organization in Richmond to provide professionally-led bereavement groups for extended families dealing with any type of death with concurrent peer groups. Our goals are to help grieving individuals:
· Strengthen Family through Grief: increase communication between family members to strengthen family ties so they can support each other during grieving
· Learn Coping Skills: learn healthy ways to deal with traumatic events and their long grief journey
· Reduce Isolation: build support networks within and outside of the family
· Heal through Creative Expression: use creative expression to strengthen communication and process feelings
With curriculum designed by a regional bereavement expert, Allyson Drake, using a model from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Full Circle incorporates best practices for helping families grieve. We combine professionally-designed grief support programs with creative expression in the form of art, music, play, dance and journaling to trigger discussions that may not have occurred otherwise.
We rely 100% on the community to provide these services free of charge to all participants through two main programs:
Counseling Groups for Families:
· Hands On Healing Group for children ages 3-18 and their families.
· Perinatal Loss Group for parents who are grieving the death of a baby.
· Suicide Loss Group for adults and school-aged children grieving a loss by suicide.
Outreach Groups for Underserved At-Risk Youth at:
· Inner-city schools
· Community partner sites: ChildSavers, Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, etc.
· Richmond City Police Department (Homicide Support Group)
· Bereavement training for local professionals and community members
· Published the area’s first and only comprehensive grief resource manual
Allyson has a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Virginia, Master of Counselor Education degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, and completed post-graduate work in counseling psychology and bereavement. She has a Certification in Thanatology (CT) through the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC), is a Compassionate Bereavement Care Certified Provider, and has completed the Resolve Through Sharing Bereavement Training for Perinatal Death. She also is a trainer for the Trauma and Resilience Basics Training, an educational program designed to help build trauma informed communities.
Allyson started her career as a Licensed School Counselor and worked as an elementary school counselor. She has worked with grieving children and families for fifteen years, has facilitated numerous counseling groups for children who were dealing with the death of a loved one, and has developed extensive curriculum for bereavement counseling groups and remembrance programs. Her passion revolves around community bereavement education and she has presented on grief and loss at numerous professional conferences and educational trainings. Allyson founded Full Circle Grief Center in 2008 and she serves as the President and Executive Director of the organization.
Allyson was named to the 2012 class of “Top 40 under 40″ in STYLE Weekly and was recognized with the 2014 Stettinius Award for Non-profit Leadership.
The partners we work consistently with for our Hands on Healing Program include the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, public and private schools, funeral homes, hospices, hospitals, private therapists, Department of Social Services and county/city mental health agencies, ChildSavers, Friends Association for Children, ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation, VCU, Bon Secours, Children's Hospital of Richmond, Virginia Home for Boys and Girls, Comfort Zone Camp, and the Juvenile Justice System.
The partners we work consistently with for our Outreach Program include Richmond City, Henrico County, and Chesterfield County school counselors and Communities in Schools-Richmond Site Coordinators, Virginia Home for Boys and Girls, Friends Association for Children, Peter Paul Development Center, Boys and Girls Club, ChildSavers, Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA)
Bereavement groups are transformational to families – who tend to grieve in isolation from each other. As children and parents bond with group members who have experienced a similar loss, their level of isolation, anger and guilt diminishes. As they learn effective coping mechanisms, they are more in control and see hope in their future. As they start to communicate openly with each other, they understand each other’s struggles more clearly, and their support for each other blossoms. All of a sudden, a family is grieving together and building a more cohesive, healthy framework for their future together.
Full Circle’s group curriculum uses a model based on nationally-researched best practices for helping youth with traumatic grief and led by an experienced counselor specializing in grief and loss with a master’s degree in a mental health field. The group starts with a family-style dinner, allowing the group members the opportunity to interact in a casual environment. Then, the next 20 minutes are spent in a family art activity, to use a simple activity to increase communication between children, adolescents, and the adult members of a family. After this activity, we hold peer counseling groups (usually 3 children’s groups and 1 adult group) for 50 minutes that are a combination of age-appropriate planned activities, discussion, and creative expression.
We also hold loss-specific groups that help participants deal more effectively with their specific type of loss. Situations that would only be relevant to specific types of loss would be discussed in group more thoroughly. All in all, it’s a more personalized therapeutic approach.
We have two loss-specific Hands on Healing Groups:
- Perinatal Loss Group for parents who are grieving the death of a baby.
- Suicide Loss Group for adults and school-aged children grieving a loss by suicide.
Strengthen Families in Grief:
Often times, the grief surrounding a significant loss in a family results in
overwhelmed parents and, therefore, children grieve in isolation. We increase
communication between family members about the loss so they can understand how
each family member grieves differently. Parents learn to understand how to best
support their child’s grief.
Learn Coping Skills: Enable children and adults to learn coping skills such as ways to release intense feelings in appropriate and healthy ways.
Reduce Isolation: Reduce isolation so children and adults feel they are not alone in the challenges they are facing.
Heal through Creative Expression: Enabling children and teens to use various forms of creative expression to identify and communicate feelings that are experienced after a death – in a setting that is supportive where everyone in the room has experienced something similar. Creative expression uses art, music, writing, dance, diagrams, and any number of other tools to help group members express and come to terms with the strong emotions they are feeling.
The ultimate goal of Full Circle’s grief counseling groups is to have a significant impact on a child’s emotional, physical, and social well-being. If we assist children walking through the grieving process, we help them find hope and start healing during an otherwise devastating time in their lives. By enhancing a child’s well-being, we increase their overall potential for the future. Ulitimately, we then contribute to a more emotionally healthy and safe community.
If Full Circle has dedicated and experienced professionals overseeing the counseling programs offered in our Center, the community,and the schools, then the counseling support provided will continue to be professional and ethical. The community ultimately benefits when mental health services are conducted in a responsible manner.
Full Circle is the only organization in
Richmond that provides bereavement support to inner-city schools in their
communities. By going into their communities, we help families who would not
otherwise have access to grief support. Since 2009, our counselors have taken
quality grief counseling services directly to 1,031 students.
Our new 2017 Outreach Bereavement Groups will be for small groups of 6-8 students who have experienced a sudden traumatic death. Twelve weekly meetings will provide age-appropriate curriculum, open discussion, peer support, arts, crafts, music, journaling and play.
Full Circle provides:
1. INNER-CITY SCHOOL GROUPS: In 2017, we plan to provide eight 12-week groups in Richmond’s K-12 inner-city schools, specifically Richmond City and the East End Henrico County Schools.
2. PARTNERSHIP GROUPS: In 2017, we plan to provide groups to children in the inner city at partner locations.
In 2015, 149 children were served through our Outreach Program. Of those, 46% had lost a parent and 35% had experienced multiple losses. 92% were at or below poverty level.
· 90% reported that they could talk about their feelings. (2014-92%)
· 76% learned healthy strategies they can use to help them feel better when upset and get their intense feelings out safely. (81%)
· 84% reported that group helped them to know that other kids their age have experienced some of the same feelings they have about losing a loved one. (90%)
· 87% said that they have learned positive ways to remember their loved ones. (95%)
· 86% said after group they can now talk to people about their loved one who died. (92%)
“This group helped me…
groups are transformational to children. When a child experiences a significant
death without a strong support system, negative effects such as plunging
academic engagement, behavioral disorders and PTSD are likely.
As children bond with group members who have experienced a similar loss, their level of isolation, anger and guilt diminishes. As they learn effective coping mechanisms, they are more in control and see hope in their future. Their behavior improves. As their behavior improves, their engagement in school increases. As they start to communicate openly with adult caretakers, these adults understand their struggles more clearly, and their support network blossoms.
With all of this in place, a child’s potential changes from being at high risk to a future founded on new open communication and community support – a more emotionally healthy member of the community. A huge hurdle to thriving academically has been dismantled.
Philosophy: Many individuals are uncomfortable talking about grief, feel unsure about what to say to those who are grieving, and don’t know the appropriate ways to support a child through grief. Sometimes, our society avoids the topic of grief because it makes people feel uncomfortable. At Full Circle, we feel strongly about the importance of educating the public on grief and its effects on children. Unfortunately, grief is a natural and normal part of life and adults need the knowledge to support children through these difficult times.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
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