The purpose of the Friendly Hearts Club program is:
To educate students about grief in a creative manner
To provide students a supportive environment to process grief
To allow students to interact with peers with similar grief experiences
To provide methods to mourn in a healthy way
Our school-based Friendly Hearts Club groups meet according to grade level for 45 minutes once per week for 20 weeks (October – April). All group levels are led by trained grief support facilitators. Each Friendly Hearts Club member has the opportunity to tell their own unique grief story, learn about various aspects of death and grief, create multimodal art activities, utilize books to supplement understanding of grief-related language, and are supported by others their age through their grief experience. Educational resources about grief are available to children, teens, and their families. All groups are free of charge.
Other important themes are identifying and coping with feelings, dealing with “unfinished business,” the various changes after someone dies, and the value of memories. Some creative modalities utilized are: creating memory boxes, designing a “mask of grief”, journaling, writing letters to loved ones, creating playlists of a loved one’s favorite music, and many more. Every FHC member is provided with a “Dear Luke” journal, all necessary art supplies, and a safe, comfortable space in which to gather. A light snack and drink are offered for each meeting. For the past 9 years, the Friendly Hearts Club program has provided grief support services to over 350 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Students who may benefit from the Friendly Hearts Club:
- Have had a family member or friend die at any point of time
- Have been identified by a designated staff person at their school as appropriate for a school-based grief group
- Have been given permission by their parent or caregiver to participate in the group
Peer Support Groups
Any school interested in instituting the Friendly Hearts Club Program in their school, please contact:
Dana M. Hahn
Elementary Age (Littles):
Our kindergarten through third grade FHC groups who assist participants in bonding as a group. Each session utilizes Slumberkins lessons and toys in addition to the standard Friendly Hearts Club lessons. This grief education component aids children in understanding various aspects of grief. Children may share their stories and experiences through verbal expression, but also through modalities such as play, art, music, and journaling. Developmentally appropriate literature accompanies each group session. The final group session includes a pizza party, a culminating activity, and a remembrance ceremony to honor loved ones who have died.
Testimonials from the FHC Elementary participants:
- “I liked talking about my Daddy.”
- “The Friendly Hearts Club was fun and I learned about grief.”
Middle-School Age (Middles):
Our middle school peer support groups consist of youth in grades four through eight. Our Friendly Hearts Club members make meaningful connections with each other through fun ice-breaker activities. Similar to the elementary group, children who participate in this group process their grief experiences through art, literature, music, in addition to open discussion. The final group meeting helps its members to say their goodbyes while also reflecting on their experience of the group. The participants take part in a pizza party, create a take-home craft, and commemorate their special person in a remembrance activity.
Testimonials from FHC Middle Schoolers:
- “I thought the Friendly Hearts Club group was helpful because I feel less alone and know how to deal with grief better.”
- “I know it’s okay to cry and to show my feeling to others.”
- “I loved the activities and snack.”
High School Age (Teens):
Our high school group members are in grades nine through twelve. As with our younger groups, teens appreciate the relationships they form with others in group. Group participants learn they are not alone in their grief experience. Participants find meaning in their loss by conversing with others, creating art or music, or playing games. These experiences promote connection and facilitate healing. Group members conclude with a pizza party, create a take-home craft, and remember their special person in a memorial activity.
Testimonials from the FHC High School Group Members:
- “I learned how to cope with all kinds of feelings in a healthy way.”
- “I made many special friends.”