What is Peer Support?

Peer support happens when people who are similar in some way provide emotional, social, or practical help to each other.  A peer is able to offer support because he or she can relate to others who are now in a similar situation.

At Donna’s Village, all group participants have experienced the death of someone important in their lives.  Many of the kids who attend groups report their friends at school do not understand how they feel, or what they are going through, because they haven’t experienced the same kind of loss.  The opportunity to meet with people their own age, who have also experienced a significant death, is invaluable.  Peer support validates feelings, helping both children and adults realize their emotions are normal, ultimately helping them feel less isolated and alone.

Groups come together twice a month to connect with others who are grieving. While most of our young participants have lost a parent or sibling, some have lost grandparents, other family members, and even close friends.

Effective peer support groups are led by a trained facilitator, made up of people who are directly effected by a common issue (in this case a death), and tend to be small in size so that each person has an opportunity to share and contribute to the group.  The role of the facilitator is not to fix the problem or give advice.  Instead, facilitators help the peer group work together effectively.

Benefits of a peer support group include meeting others who are experiencing a similar situation, which helps participants feel less alone.  Peer support groups empower people to solve their own problems and area  safe place for individuals to talk about their feelings and struggles.  Some people find counselors and therapists intimidating.  A support group is a good place to turn for help as all the members are equal, and no one has power over the others.  Studies have shown that participation in a peer support group can help reduce anxiety, improve self-esteem, and improve the feeling of well-being overall.


Grief is the price we pay for love…

It is estimated that one in seven children will lose a parent or sibling before age twenty. (New York Life Foundation)

In Northwest Ohio, that means approximately 15,000 children, teens, and young adults are grieving the loss of someone significant in their lives right now. Following the death of a significant family member, children generally experience an intense feeling of loss and sadness that may last for an extended period, and can have a profound effect on their lives.

In a society that is anxious about death, kids get the message that people are uncomfortable with their grief. As a result, many suffer in silence and isolation, with few opportunities to share their feelings – and inadequate support from the individuals and institutions around them. Not wanting to burden parents or other family members, children may keep their feelings inside, or they may act out in destructive ways.

Unresolved childhood grief is linked with depression, violence, truancy, school failure, substance abuse, even suicide. Current research and practice teaches us when children have the opportunity to grieve openly and share their feelings honestly, they feel less alone and in turn fare better than they would otherwise. Peer support groups can play an important role in bereavement, and help prevent grief from becoming a more serious social, emotional, or health problem.

Donna’s Village offers free peer support groups for those who are grieving. Our groups are age appropriate, and led by trained volunteer facilitators. Children and teens are encouraged to express their thoughts and feelings through music, play, art, journal writing, and other activities. Support groups are offered for adults while kids’ groups are in session, giving them an opportunity to share, and to learn ways to help their children, as well as themselves.

We recognize the work of mourning in childhood needs to be addressed repeatedly at different developmental and chronological milestones. Because grieving is a process that continues over time, children will revisit the loss repeatedly, especially during significant life events. Therefore, families can attend sessions for as long as they feel necessary. As the only free, open-ended, bereavement support group focusing primarily on children and young adults in northwest Ohio, Good Grief fills an important and unmet need in our community.

“Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness… It takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and our anger flow in tears when they need to. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it.”

― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things To Remember

Donna’s Village FAQs


When does Donna’s Village meet? 
The first and third Wednesday of each month, 6 – 7:30 p.m.

Who can attend?
Anyone who is grieving a death. Adults meet with adults. Children and teens meet in age appropriate groups.

What is Donna’s Village?
Modeled after The Dougy Center, in Portland, Oregon, Donna’s Village brings together caring, trained volunteers and people who have experienced a death. Participants share their experiences, feelings, and concerns, and help each other on their grief journey.

No one tells you what to do – or how to feel. We simply walk this journey together, understanding and supporting one another. Children’s groups use stories, expressive arts, and play to create an outlet for the things they have trouble saying aloud.  We all work together to make a safe place for grief.

How do I get involved?
You can work with us as a volunteer, or join as a group member. Please contact us for details.


Death and dying are not easy topics, but they are universal.  Every one of us will experience death through the loss of people and pets we care about, and we will do this many times throughout our lives. Yet society as a whole is very uncomfortable with death. We aren’t good at acknowledging our own loss, much less that of others.  And when children are involved in mourning, it gets even more difficult.

Donna’s Village is about helping people process their feelings when faced with loss through death. We do this through peer support groups. While therapeutic in nature, our groups are not therapy or counseling sessions.  Studies show that people do better when they are able to share their experiences with peers – people of a similar age with similar experiences.

Furthermore, we know children and teens need opportunities to express their feelings through art and play.  Often, they lack the words to express themselves clearly.  Artistic outlets such as drawing, painting, music, and poetry, can help.  Play is often referred to as a child’s “work” and an important tool used to make sense of changes and to process information.  Donna’s Village provides important opportunities for children and teens to explore and understand their emotions.

No two people mourn the same way. We acknowledge those differences and seek to  provide a caring, respectful environment in which people can share their sadness, anger, fear, and other feelings in safety.

Thanks for being part of our journey!

bad beginning