"I'm not alone." After attending a KCGCF grief group in one of our school programs, this is what one of our grieving middle schoolers came to understand.
Bereaved children struggling with unsupported grief may have difficulties in school, have trouble regulating emotions and relationships, and exhibit a higher incidence of depression and anxiety. Without experiences that can help normalize grief and process its accompanying feelings, these children may continue to struggle—sometimes for decades.
Children grieve over a long period of time, in stages, and often need to reprocess the grief each time they reach a new developmental stage. When a death has changed a family’s traditional support systems, group support and individual counseling services become even more critical during this healing process.
Children receiving grief intervention services have the positive opportunity to develop and build emotional awareness and coping strategies that will benefit them throughout their lives. Bereaved children also benefit from settings in which they can be with others in similar circumstances. A sense of safety and understanding is especially important for children and families who are grieving losses from stigmatized causes such as suicide, substance abuse, and criminal activity.
In 2012, Leila and Katarina Salisbury lost a husband and father to a death by suicide. Living in Jackson, Mississippi at the time, they were incredibly fortunate to find the McClean Fletcher Center, an organization offering support and healing for grieving families. Several years later, Leila began volunteering with the center, and the idea for founding a similar place in her home state of Kentucky was born.
After the additional tragic loss of her mother in 2018, Leila saw an even greater need as her now-teenaged daughter struggled with this new loss without available group supports in Kentucky. Surrounded by committed individuals who also understood that Kentucky’s grieving children deserved a safe and healing place, Leila launched program operations for The Kentucky Center for Grieving Children and Families, Inc. in the fall of 2021. Today, the KCGCF conducts school, community, and online-based peer support groups. It also engages actively in trainings, advocacy, and policy discussions in order to improve the experiences of grieving children all across Kentucky.
We are thrilled to welcome Emily Johnson as the KCGCF’s new Clinical Program Manager! Emily says, “In 2015, I lost my father to cancer and began the grieving process. This experience allowed me the opportunity to realize that I had a growing passion to support others also experiencing the grieving process. From that point on, I knew that I wanted to be a grief-focused therapist. I began my studies at Auburn University and continued by completing a master's degree in couple and family therapy at the University of Kentucky.
"I am passionate about working with children and families through their grieving process. I am excited to serve as the Clinical Manager here at The Kentucky Center for Grieving Children and Families!"
Clinical Program Manager
Dr. Kay Collier McLaughlin, Tranformative Leadership Consulting, Board Chair
Ryan Adams, CPA, Baldwin CPAs, Board Treasurer
Katherine Adams, Attorney
Dr. Nicole Breazeale, University of Kentucky Dept. of Community Leadership & Development
Ryan Butler, New York Life Insurance
Derek Humfleet, McClelland & Associates PLLC
Harper Kelly, retired educator and policy analyst
Carolyn Kenton, Attorney and former legislator
Sylvia Lovely, writer, former Executive Director of the Kentucky League of Cities
Dr. Margaret McGladrey, University of Kentucky
Monica Mobley, retired guidance counselor, Fayette Co. Public Schools
Jess Mohler, Kentucky Pharmacists Association
Elizabeth Owens, retired guidance counselor, Fayette Co. Public Schools
Dr. Lindsay Ragsdale, CMO, University of Kentucky Children's Hospital
Richard Royster, LPCA, Counseling Associates
Kathy Ryan, Attorney
Lisle Siegrist, Bank of the Bluegrass