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Valerie’s House moves grief support groups online amid coronavirus crisis

The coronavirus is taking a toll on all of us. For families already grieving the loss of a loved one, the impact is compounded by the isolation both physically and emotionally.

“Most of the kids who are part of this group have all just recently lost a parent, so a lot of stress already in the home,” said Angela Melvin. “And now that this is happening, there’s even more anxiety as you can imagine.”

Melvin is the founder and CEO of Valerie’s House, a nonprofit dedicated to helping families grieve their loved ones, and she said the community needs it now more than ever.

“We’ve already had our first family enroll as a result of the coronavirus,” Melvin said.

Normally their support groups might host 40 to 50 people, and that’s why when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending smaller gatherings, she knew they had to adjust, and quickly.

“We like to use the term physical distancing rather than social distancing,” she said.

Starting this week, Valerie’s House is hosting virtual grief support groups, following the same schedules with the same participants and leaders, all online. They are using a video chat platform made specifically for these kinds of groups to help maintain confidentiality.

“There’s some other security barriers there for children and families who want to talk openly about their feelings,” Melvin said.

The plan is to keep using this new method throughout the pandemic, and perhaps beyond it, to accommodate families who move away or otherwise aren’t able to attend in person.

“For a lot of us learning this, even under the circumstances which is very stressful at times, it’s going to only help us in the end,” Melvin said.

Valerie’s House is enrolling new families needing grief support during the COVID-19 crisis. For more information on supporting the nonprofit or referring grieving families, visit www.valerieshouseswfl.org.

Reporter:Sara Girard
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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