Photo © Courtesy of Lighthouse for Grieving Children and Families
Grief is a natural response to loss. When a parent or sibling dies, it shakes the very foundation of a family, leaving behind a trail of emotional upheaval. The Lighthouse Program for Grieving Children knows this well. For 25 years, Lighthouse has provided essential peer support for grieving children, youth, and their families in Halton, Peel, and beyond, offering open-ended, ongoing grief support groups, and allowing families to navigate their grief journey at their own pace.
The Lighthouse Difference
The program offers a centre-based model of peer support, the only one of its kind in the Greater Toronto Area. Unlike other bereavement programs that typically offer short-term support, Lighthouse recognizes that grieving is a process that takes time.
When a child or youth experiences the death of a parent or sibling, it changes their life and their worldview. Grief, for them, is not an event; it is a lifelong process. Children and youth will grieve and re-grieve with each age and stage of development at different milestones and significant life events. Lighthouse helps them to understand their grief, acknowledges their pain, and allows for the expression of their feelings and exploration of their experiences.
Families are welcome to attend their groups for as long as they need, averaging around 14 months, ensuring they have the necessary support for the entirety of their grief journey.
Grief requires time, support, and space to heal. Run by staff and trained volunteers, the Lighthouse Program not only aids in the process of grief but also acts as a preventative measure against potential complications, such as depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and emotional withdrawal.
At Lighthouse, bereaved children and teens meet others like them. No longer feeling different, they can ask questions, find resources in themselves and through new friendships, and live life post-death to their full potential.
“Grief is hard work—exhausting, isolating, disorientating and overwhelming,” said Jo Fallon, founder of Lighthouse. “It is a healthy reaction to loss. But in order to reinvest back into one’s life, one has to process what has happened, how it happened and what it means moving forward. The more that children and youth can process at the relevant time, the greater their resilience and sense of self as they go into adulthood.”
Research suggests that teens facing loss are at higher risk for a range of mental health challenges. The Lighthouse Program provides a safe space for them to express their feelings, explore their experiences, and find support and acceptance, ensuring no child has to grieve alone.
“To be in a non-judgmental, loving and accepting environment is crucial,” Fallon continued. “It is the foundation of how they will live their lives with strength, passion and vigour. Simply put, lives are lived better when we do not come from a place of constriction and fear. Life is about living—we all deserve the right to live our lives to the very fullest. Lighthouse facilitates that.”
The Lighthouse Program provides invaluable support to children and families in Halton/Peel Regions and beyond at no cost. However, the organization relies heavily on community support to continue its vital work. Only four per cent of the operating costs are covered by the United Way of Halton and Hamilton—the rest comes from fundraising events, service clubs, community foundations, and generous donors like you.
Lives are lived better when we support one another through grief. Your donation has a tangible impact in the lives of children, youth, and families in your community and beyond.
Learn more and donate at lighthousegriefsupport.org
At Lighthouse, we offer free support for the entire family as each person navigates their unique journey through grief, loss, and change. Here you will find support, resources, and connections for each family member.