Gerard’s House is a safe place for grieving children, teens and families, where healing happens through acceptance and peer support.
Our model creates an important safety net for bereaved families and over the years has had a lasting, positive impact on the Santa Fe community. Since 1997, we have helped more than 10,000 children and youth regain hope, stabilize physically and psychologically, and restore sustaining relationships with family and friends in the face of serious loss. We are the only organization in northern New Mexico providing free, long-term grief support to children and “parenting in grief” support to their families.
In 1997, a small group of parents were part of a grief support group led by Sister Arlene Einwalter at Berardinelli’s Family Funeral Service. Many were grieving the deaths of teenaged children in the previous year. The acceptance and healing they experienced with each other made them aware that there was no place in Santa Fe where their children’s young siblings and friends could receive similar peer support.
Sister Arlene knew of a place called the Dougy Center in Portland, Oregon that offered peer grief support for children and teens. Together, she and the parents raised some money, traveled to the Dougy Center, and took the peer group facilitator training. They returned to Santa Fe and founded a grief support center for children and teens on the Dougy Center model. They named their center, “Gerard’s House,” after Gerard Sanchez, a young man who died in a car accident in 1996—the year he was a senior at Capital High.
Gerard’s House became a nonprofit corporation in June 1997, trained its first volunteer facilitators in January of 1998, and a few weeks later started its first unit of children’s peer grief support groups in a one-room facility run entirely by volunteers. Shortly after we moved into a larger space and hired our first paid staff.
With sensitive care and peer support, grieving children and their families restore themselves and each other and grow in positive, healthy ways. Skilled staff and volunteer facilitators at Gerard’s House create a safe place where any family can come to find acceptance, support and hope.
Our program is based on four principles:
- Grief is a natural reaction to death—for children as well as adults.
- Within each individual is the natural capacity to heal.
- The duration and intensity of grief are unique for every individual.
- Caring and acceptance assist in the healing process.
Our core program service is facilitated support groups in which grief is normalized and supported through interactions with peers and attention and support from caring adult facilitators. Children and youth build trust and express their feelings through group activities that include art, writing, drama, games, free play, group sharing, and memorializing of those who have died.
Concurrent parenting-in-grief support groups are offered for parents and caregivers. Weekly groups for both children and parents are organized by children’s age into eight-week “units,” and when units end, families are always welcome to enroll for one or more following units.
Grief Support for Children, Teens and Families
Gerard’s House is a safe place for grief support groups serving children, teens and families, where healing happens through acceptance and peer support.
Our services are offered free to any family with children ages 3-21 who have experienced the death of a close family member or friend.
Grief Support Services include:
Nuestra Jornada (Our Journey) * + weekly immigrant support groups for Latino immigrant students in Santa Fe schools who are grieving the death of—or separation from—a parent or family member.
Grief Connections + weekly peer bereavement support groups at Gerard’s House and in Santa Fe schools for children and youth who have experienced the death of a parent or other loved one. Concurrent support is also provided at Gerard’s House for parents and adult family members.
Adult Grief Support Group + offered year-round for all adults grieving the death of a loved one.
Stepping Stones * + mobile grief support unit goes to the homes of children, teens and families who are coping with a life-threatening illness.
Crisis Response services * + responds when a youth suicide or other death affects students.
Grief support groups for homeless youth *provided on-site at two Youth Shelters and Family Services locations for those experiencing youth homelessness, including young adults experiencing homelessness.
The Young Parents/Teen Mom Nuestra Jornada Group + Programs to help Latino pregnant teens and Latino teen parents, as well as their children. Gerard’s House meets their basic needs and helps young parents connect with each other, share their stories and receive nurturing, support and important resources.
* Mobile, + bilingual
Facilitated Peer Grief Support Groups for Ages 3-21
A peer grief support group includes six to twelve children, teens or young adults who participate together in a range of activities, including storytelling, art and crafts, drama, music, games, free play, checking in, group discussion and snacks.
All group members—regardless of their individual feelings, behaviors or circumstances—are coping with the same change in their lives. Someone close to them has died.
Knowing that others your age are like you and that they have similar feelings and thoughts provides comfort and consolation that cannot be found anywhere else. No explanations are necessary; everyone, in their own way, is experiencing the same loss. This is the underlying bond in a “peer” grief group.
Peer support groups at Gerard’s House are facilitated by vetted, highly trained and committed volunteers, including retired and active teachers, counselors, therapists and social workers, doctors, Gerard’s House alumni, and others, who together donate thousands of unpaid hours every year.
Groups meet once a week—after school or in the evening—in winter, spring and fall units of eight weeks each.
Any child who has experienced the death of a close family member or friend is welcome at Gerard’s House. Groups and other services are always free.
Join a Group Now
Living with Illness Support for Ages 3-21
Children and teens living with seriously ill family members are welcome at Gerard’s House, where they receive individual counseling and participate in activities designed just for them. Adult family members are also welcome.
Individual Support for Spanish-speaking Children and Families (En Español)
Sometimes children are unable to benefit from peer group support because they do not yet speak English fluently. Gerard’s House has developed a program of Spanish language peer support for these children.
Camp Rainbow—Our Annual Grief Camp for Ages 8-14
Two or more days of peer grief support and amazing fun activities, outdoors at Hyde Park, indoors at Gerard’s House. New and returning children are welcome. Every Summer – Ages 8-14
Rainbow Days—Peer Groups and Family Dinners for Ages 3-14
In June, July and August, half days of youth peer grief support at Gerard’s House, followed by a dinner for the whole family. New and returning children are welcome. Call 505-424-1800 for details.
Parenting in Grief
At Gerard’s House we are sensitive to the multiple difficulties that parents and caregivers experience when they are grieving the death of someone dear. For this reason, we offer grief support groups for parents that run concurrently with our peer grief support groups for children. Participation is optional. Groups are offered on demand for parents and caregivers with children enrolled in peer groups.
Call 505-424-1800 to learn more or ask for information when you come for your family orientation.