Youth Grief Support Program
Brighter Days Family Grief Center proudly acquired Fairview Health's Youth Grief Services program in December 2020. This 20+ year proven program served hundreds of youth annually through a quarterly grief series and two bereavement camps, Camp Erin-Twin Cities. We intend to continue with these incredible supports while enhancing this program to include monthly virtual and in-person grief support groups, access to free grief counseling, and family-friendly events and activities that provide connection to others who have experienced a similar loss. We view this connection as one of the most important emotional aspects of our model of care; knowing that there are others who understand can help diminish the level of isolation a grieving child may typically feel.
As the Executive Director of Widow Might I have an ongoing working relationship with the team at Brighter Days Grief Center. I specifically turn to Brighter Days when widows and widowers contact me in need of resources for their children. Their compassion and concern for all who are grieving is so evident in all they do, but especially for grieving children and their loved ones who are trying to help them through their grief. ~Kathy Scheffler, Executive Director, Widow Might
Learn more about our Youth Grief Support Program in the video below:
Youth and Family Grief Support Series
Brighter Days provides a free 6-week grief support series for children and teens, ages 4-17, who have experienced the death of a loved one. This series is an evidence-based and trauma-informed program led by our Youth Program Director with assistance from our Youth Grief Counselor and our professionally trained volunteers. Each series starts with a beautiful welcoming ceremony for the family and ends with a meaningful closing ceremony, both providing the opportunity for connection to each other while also honoring their loved one. Activities are hands-on and age appropriate, and each week focuses on a specific topic. While the children are meeting, the adults are invited to attend an educational class about how to best support their grieving child or a support group specific to their loss.
Camp Erin - Twin Cities
Brighter Days is proud to be a partner of the Eluna Network, and will offer Camp Erin - Twin Cites twice per year. Camp is a recognized, therapeutic method that teaches youth in the medium that is most familiar and comfortable to them—PLAY!. Camp activities embed the learning in fun, yet instructive, activities. The unique camp experience creates an atmosphere to facilitate safe expression of grief both physically and emotionally, as well as traditional camp activities such as canoeing, swimming, arts and crafts, and games. Campers learn that they are not alone in their grief, which fosters a sense of belonging that is often shattered when a parent or sibling dies. Lasting friendships develop out of the camp experience, creating an extended support community.
Activities and Special Events
Whether it is through our partners or one of our special events, we are committed to providing healthy and positive engagement for the children and families of Brighter Days Family Grief Center. Aside from grief support, camps and retreats, we will continue to provide virtual and in-person activities and events to remind children that they are not alone. Keep an eye out for events like Family FUNday, tickets to sporting events, craft making at our center and holiday themed memorial events. All created with the intention to connect children and families to US and to EACH OTHER!
Brighter Days provides free support groups and workshops for specific age groups and loss types. These are scheduled quarterly and are led by our staff and trained volunteers. We also provide anticipatory support for children who are anticipating the death of a parent, sibling or close family member. Short-term grief counseling is provided at no cost and parent consultations are always encouraged. We want to help you support your grieving child(ren) while ensuring you have support for yourself as well.
To stay updated on our youth and family offerings, sign up for our newsletter HERE.
Please make sure to visit our Resources page for other local and national resources for Youth.
Meet our Youth Grief Support team! Jenny and Melisa will help guide you as you navigate these uncharted waters; their wisdom and compassion are simply unmatched. Whether you prefer grief counseling or just some support on parenting your grieving child, they are here for you. Reach out by calling 952-303-3873 or Jenny@brighterdaysgriefcenter.org
Jenny Simmonds, M. Ed, TF-CBT
Youth Program Director
Jenny leads our Youth Program and comes to us with many years of experience and passion in supporting grieving children and their parents/caregivers. She is also the Co-Director of Camp Erin - Twin Cities.
Prior to joining the team at Brighter Days, Jenny served as the Program Director at Fairview’s Youth Grief Services for 14 years. She is passionate about her work facilitating groups, presenting children’s grief education to other professionals, and writing curriculum.
Jenny has authored two books, Seeing Red and Children In Change, and served as adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota in the Youth Studies department. She holds a Master’s Degree in Education-Youth Development Leadership.
In her off time, Jenny is busy raising two teenage sons alongside her wife in South Minneapolis. She also enjoys traveling, being outdoors and trying out new and bizarre ice cream flavors any chance she gets.
Melisa Gesick, MSW, CGC
Youth Grief Counselor
Before having children and making an international move, Melisa worked at Methodist Home Hospice. She was the Lead Clinical Social Worker for the department and provided anticipatory grief counseling and bereavement support to patients and families enrolled in the hospice program. Melisa was then employed at Fairview Health Services as an inpatient hospice social worker and bereavement coordinator. In addition, Melisa spent two years at Park Nicollet, supervising several social workers while also counseling children and teens through their school-based grief support program.
Melisa received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Certification in Grief Counseling through the American Institute of Health Care Professionals. She is currently working towards a specialization in Children and Adolescent Grief. In her free time, Melisa enjoys family bike rides, reading, travel, reconnecting with friends in Minnesota and walking her puppy Theo, an adorable mini-Goldendoodle.