Grief is the way people
react to loss or severe misfortune. It
may be silent or quite obvious from the outside. It may
be short or long in duration and may involve phases that
reflect differences in behavior or perspective in the
wake of an event. While the term is often associated with
the death of a loved one, grief is prompted by a full
range of life experiences and may stem from an outright
loss or the longing for a positive experience.
This is why National Grief Support Services offers support
for those who grieve from the many causes listed on this
, among many others.
is National Grief Support Services, Incorporated?
is a 501c3 non-profit corporation based in Los Angeles
with a mission to provide comprehensive services that
reach people dealing with many forms of grief from direct
victims to their families, friends and coworkers, and
even those who make it their daily work to support these
individuals. The primary vehicle for delivering services
is the website.GriefSupportServices.org.
National Grief Support
Services was founded in 1994 by Karen
Russell of Los Angeles. Russell, 51, is a social worker,
wife and mother. Her own grief experiences, including
the death of her childhood sweetheart and first husband
in an accident caused by a drunk driver, led gradually,
yet directly, to her founding this organization. She is
reinforced as executive director by a Board
of Directors with both a belief in this mission and
with professional expertise in human needs and multimedia
is Karen Russell?
Karen Russell began National
Grief Support Services Inc. in 1994, inspired both by
her lifelong work in social service and her own grief
experience. More than nine years of preparation preceded
the launch of the nonprofit website, www.GriefSupportServices.org,
in February 2004.
Her commitment to addressing human needs solidified in
undergraduate and graduate social work studies at Kent
State and Ohio State universities, as she devised innovative
programs to provide recreation and comfort to older people.
In California, Karen became more deeply involved in issues
surrounding Alzheimer’s disease and organized events
and coalitions to address the effects of Alzheimer’s
on patients and their families. Besides directing social
service programs and senior centers, she established two
nonprofits, Activity Source for Seniors and Opportunities
and Services for Seniors, as well as the Alzheimer’s
Task Force of California’s San Gabriel Valley, linking
professionals in that area. Karen organized the Time of
Your Life Expo, an annual Los Angeles event for elders
that melded her human services background with a growing
knowledge of marketing. Further studies in Internet marketing
prepared her to realize her longtime goal to provide comprehensive
grief support services.
Beyond her professional endeavors, she devoted herself
to raising a family, but also grieving for her high school
sweetheart and first husband Michael, who died in a car
accident at the age of 29. This website synthesizes Karen’s
life experiences, good and bad, to provide a lasting service
to many in Michael’s memory.
Karen lives and works in Southern California with her
husband, Barry Russell, and two sons, Kyle and David.
National Grief Support Services Inc. do anything besides
is the hub for a number of online and off-the-web support
services for those who grieve.
Printed materials include a book, Grief
Passages, designed to travel anywhere and provide
inspiration and hope through the words of others who have
walked grief’s road before. There are also links
and referrals to hundreds of community-based or other
sources that provide uplifting contact with people, to
publications and to events.
The telephone is another way that National Grief Support
Services provides support. Group or individual assistance
are available either by phone or online. And TeleClasses
allow visitors to explore specific topics more deeply
than they otherwise might, assisting people who are grieving
as well as those trying to help them.
|Aren’t people better off finding grief support within their own communities?
Often, but not always.
In a time when people work more hours for less disposable
income, online and telephone support services make complete
sense. There is no limit to how often or what time of
day or night one visits griefsupportservices.org.
There is no driving time nor child-care hassles. Medical
coverage often limits access to professionals, but with
GriefSupportServices.org there is no maxing out on your
benefits. And for the uninsured, access to professional
help is severely limited.
No appointments are necessary for most of these services,
and it isn’t necessary to scrape together enough
people from a local area to discuss a very specific topic
of concern. Groups can focus narrowly on issues like loss
of an infant or the impact of divorce on teens.
And for people in smaller towns and rural areas –
those who may feel more isolated than many – the
choices to seek in-person services may be virtually nonexistent.
Furthermore, the ways people successfully deal with grief
vary just as much as the ways they react to any challenge,
from smoking cessation to finding a job. And for many,
the entrée to their personal healing process is
actually through contact that is impersonal.
Online Support rooms and services allow anonymity that
can bring forth honest self-evaluation and expression.
In the same way, grief counseling or support may feel
easier to begin in utmost privacy. Telephone help or crisis
lines have long served this need, but only to a degree.
They do not allow the person to browse as on the web.
Instead they try to draw callers out, but the person handling
the call may not always do so at a pace that’s comfortable
for the individual. Online, the participant controls the
pace of disclosure.
Many people are not fortunate to have relationships that
allow them to freely share their feelings. Friends on
this level may not be numerous, they may not be readily
available and they may not be seen as best suited to deal
with a particular problem at a particular time. And some
communities, neighborhoods or families are less likely
than others to reward open expressions of feelings with
is not positioning itself as a substitute for any other
options. Some people may be able to take advantage of
many of our offerings. Others with strong support systems
in their communities may find useful information through
select services like our online library, our e-zine Grief
Matters, or take comfort late at night in the Healing
Music Listening Room.
And of course, www.GriefSupportServices.org
is proud to refer users to locally based services and
organizations, and equally proud to be referred by them
through our Compassion CooperativeTM.
pays for this site and its services?
Russell used money left to her by an uncle, who lost his
battle with cancer, as seed money for a project begun
more than nine years ago. The site actively solicits grant
and foundation support. We are also aware that individuals
bear heartfelt gratitude for the support they receive
in times of need. On our website, people find or create
appropriate expressions of their feelings, memories and
wishes. We offer many of these opportunities at absolutely
no charge. For other, more elaborate services we ask a
There are relationships with a select group of outside
companies and organizations on this site. They provide
goods and services to our visitors with consideration
for our nonprofit status and mission, and we are pleased
to suggest people link to their websites and explore their
other offerings. The types of goods and services offered
in this way are considered carefully, to further the purpose
of grief support. And once we decide to include a type
of service or merchandise in this way, we look very carefully
at the quality of an organization’s offerings from
a consumer standpoint.
can people get more involved?
as this project thrives through the donated services and
labor of many caring individuals, National Grief Support
Services encourages volunteerism both on and off its website.
We hope many of those who have benefited from online support
or telephone support groups at www.GriefSupportServices.org
will continue to participate and share their healing experiences
with others. And we would like to do our part to spark
involvement on the community level with organizations
with which we link our visitors.
We hope anyone who comes upon our website finds it worthy
of their financial contributions of any size, because
the costs of operating a multimedia project are significant,
even with the financial consideration we are shown by
Users of the site are welcome to offer suggestions for
ways to expand or improve any of our services or to propose
new links to and from our site.
And we especially hope you will spread the word about
what we do, so that many, many others can further their
quests for contentment and peace.
kind of track record does this organization have?
somebody making a buck here?
Our Board of
Directors is unpaid. Executive Director Karen Russell
has spent tens of thousands of dollars in personal assets
as of the date the site was launched. Some of this was
spent to compensate consultants and a research team of
10 people, firms and individuals for web and communications
services which were offered at deep discounts or gratis.
As of this date, only the research team of National Grief
Support Services Inc. has been compensated.
This will have to change. The administration of a highly
interactive website and the procurement of informative
content from many expert and accomplished sources cannot
be done by an individual or rely entirely on volunteer
labor. But this question will remain, and the answer will
be updated as circumstances warrant.
makes you feel you can make a go of dealing with sensitive
issues like personal loss on the Internet?
We’ll have to measure success with more than service.
We are not going into uncharted territory, and we do have
We do know that businesses and organizations have offered
various services similar to pieces of the online grief
support found at www.GriefSupportServices.org.
We are not privy to financial performance information
from these other services, some of which are underwritten
so they do not have to succeed on their own. We feel we
can succeed based on years of experience, careful preparation
and study, the assessments and assistance of professionals
who have proven themselves in the field of Internet marketing
and grief suport, and through the endorsements and participation
of a growing list of professionals in the human services
makes www.GriefSupportServices.org different from the help
sites already out there?
are many, many wonderful services and products, but people
have to go from place to place to find them. None are
the complete resource found at www.GriefSupportServices.org.
Online memorials offered previously, for instance, are
limited and static compared to the multimedia tributes
we make available. They allow people to upload not only
photos and text but audio and video clips, either their
own or from our libraries. Making full use of this medium,
we expand this idea into some unique offerings like Legacy
of the Heart and Private
Thoughts virtual multimedia memoirs, and Forget-Me-Nots
virtual life stories, for those suffering with Alzheimer’s.
Our catalogs of topics for telephone
support groups and classes,
groups is unsurpassed, and our useful links –
whether to services, music or articles – form a
comprehensive network that is easy to navigate, a “web
within the Web,” if you will. We are especially
proud our Victims
and Heroes section, which reaches around the world
to tap the core feelings that know no cultural and national
boundaries, as well as our First ever Virtual Walk
of Peace and Remembrance.
Earlier online services have generally been adjuncts
to sponsors’ main reasons for being. They may be
operated by web developers, trade organizations or practitioners
who see the Internet as helpful mechanism for provision
of services to clients, members and even the public.
The full array of services is found here. It may not
be one-stop service, since we happily refer people to
so many others, but GriefSupportServices.org
can be a valuable resource for everyone.
do I get more information about National Grief Support Services
either of the individuals below for further information,
to schedule interviews, or to obtain high-resolution images
or audio to accent media coverage.
National Grief Support Services Inc.
99 Buckskin Road
West Hills, CA 91307