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 page
, 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
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 communications.
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.
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.
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
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
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 compassion.
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
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 donation.
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.
Just 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
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 outside firms.
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
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?
to measure success with more than service. We are not going into
uncharted territory, and we do have a map.
We do know that businesses and organizations have offered various
services similar to pieces of the online grief support found at
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 disciplines.
makes www.GriefSupportServices.org different from the help sites already
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 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.