What is grief?
What is National Grief Support Services Inc.?
Who is Karen Russell?
Does National Grief Support Services Inc. do anything besides the website?
Aren’t people better off finding grief support within their own communities?
Who pays for this site and its services?
How can people get involved?
What kind of track record does this organization have?
Isn’t somebody making a buck here?
What makes you feel you can succeed on the Internet dealing with sensitive issues like personal loss?
What makes www.GriefSupportServices.org different from the help sites already out there?
How do I get more information about National Grief Support Services?
 
What is grief?

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.

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What is National Grief Support Services, Incorporated?

NGSS 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 communications.

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Who 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.

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Does National Grief Support Services Inc. do anything besides the website?

The website www.GriefSupportServices.org 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.

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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 compassion.

Significantly, www.GriefSupportServices.org 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.

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Who pays for this site and its services?

Karen 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 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.

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How can people get more involved?

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 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 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 and peace.

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What kind of track record does this organization have?

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Isn’t 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.

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What 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 a map.

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 disciplines.

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What makes www.GriefSupportServices.org different from the help sites already out there?

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, and online 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.

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How do I get more information about National Grief Support Services or www.GriefSupportServices.org?

Just contact either of the individuals below for further information, to schedule interviews, or to obtain high-resolution images or audio to accent media coverage.


Karen Russell
Executive Director
National Grief Support Services Inc.
99 Buckskin Road
West Hills, CA 91307
818/347-8955
e-mail: Karen@griefsupportservices.org

Bob Datz
Media Relations
413-245-3483
508/864-3322
e-mail: Bob@griefsupportservices.org

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