Hospice of Cincinnati

Peer Support That Works

Christi Kettman joined Fernside’s staff in 2000 after volunteering for 2 years. Christi coordinates our School Program as well as our Downtown group night. Christi oversees the production of our newsletter and contributes to all of our other publications. She holds a BA in Psychology from Thomas More College and is a certified Trauma & Loss School Specialist.

Measuring Results That Matter

After 15 years at Fernside, there are a few things I still know to be true: we have great families, the pizza still tastes good and our peer support groups work!

I’ve taken hundreds of grief calls over the years and worked with as many grieving families. Some knew right away they wanted to participate in our program, others were more reluctant. But what they all shared in common, in addition to having experienced a death, was the willingness to try.

At Fernside we follow the group’s lead. We have a plan – a theme for discussion and an expressive art activity to support that theme – but we respond to the needs of the group. We gather by age and loss which helps direct the focus for each group. We invite and encourage the telling of stories. We don’t force. We facilitate the healthy release of feelings. We don’t judge. We acknowledge changes and challenges. We share memories and hopes for the future. We listen.

I’ve seen hesitant teens become leaders in their groups. I’ve witnessed children unable to share their stories for months, have an unexpected breakthrough. I’ve heard from adults who initially stated they were here for their children, share how helpful group support has been for them too. 

Being in a grief support group can help children and teens feel less isolated and give them a place to work through the loss. Adults who participated in a Fernside grief support group tell us they are better able to cope with their grief and that of their children. They have the opportunity to interact with other adults who are also raising grieving children and express their own feelings about the death. 

We believe that providing support for the entire family yields positive results for the children. And our evaluation results validate this. As one adult participant shared, “Fernside is the only place where my kids sort out their emotions and when we leave, they feel tons better.”

Last year 77% of the parents who brought their children to Fernside reported at least one positive behavior change since being in a support group. The most common positive changes were:

  • 21% - less worrying
  • 20% - less acting out/fighting
  • 19% - less anger
  • 15% - interacting more positively with peers
  • 12% - better able to focus

As we begin another year of offering grief support, we’re reminded about the value of our work through these evaluation results. And I’m reminded about why I love doing what I do – we’ve stayed true to our mission and we know that it works!

Chris P. and Fernside Group