How Grief Groups Can Help

Alan Pederson, the Executive Director of The Compassionate Friends, spoke with Dr. David Fajgenbaum about his work with college students and how they handle grief. The two connected at the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference, which Dr. Fajgenbaum was attending in order to share his research and findings. Losing a loved one at any age is difficult, but having that happen in your college years is especially difficult. Many students are away from home for the first time and many of their current relationships are too new to rely on for support. You’re also supposed to be having the best years of your life, so it can feel like “wrong timing” to talk about terminal illnesses or losses.

Even more challenging, all students feel alone from time to time. Students might feel like they should be able to handle things on their own. However, organizations, clubs, and groups on campus can be of great help. Dr. Fajgenbaum has established service groups at a few campuses across the country, helping students to get involved in community service—often in memory of a loved one.

Service with a Purpose

Some examples include bootcamps to beat cancer, which is what Dr. Fajgenbaum did for his own mother who passed away while he was in college. Knowing you’re not alone, and surrounding yourself with peers who understand what you’re going through, can be paramount to the healing process in college. It can also make the difference between staying in a program and taking a sometimes permanent leave.

It also gives friends a way to support someone who’s grieving, since it can be difficult to figure out how at that age. Find out more about Students of AMF today.

Alan Pedersen

More Articles Written by Alan

Alan Pedersen has been performing for more than 25 years. An accomplished singer and award winning songwriter, he spent several years writing and recording music in Nashville, Tennessee. Alan has had several songs recorded by other artists. His writing has not been limited to music, he has written commercials, radio news copy, and collaborations for television shows and other comedy projects. His performing credits are numerous as well. Alan has worked as an actor, stand-up comedian, keynote speaker/emcee, and in radio as a network news and sports reporter for Westwood One Communications. Currently living in Englewood, Colorado, Alan is the father of four boys and an angel. In August of 2001 Alan’s life took a tragic turn, his 18-year-old and only daughter Ashley was killed in an automobile accident. This tragedy would take his life in a direction he never imagined. Struggling for months to find answers and trying to cope with tremendous pain and anger, he entered a grief program in Denver, Colorado and began attending monthly meetings of a support organization (The Compassionate Friends.) Alan credits these organizations with saving his life and inspiring him to honor his daughter’s life by helping others. In July of 2003, Alan released a CD of songs he had written about his walk through the valley of grief, titled Ashley’s Songbook. In 2006, he released a follow up CD titled “A Little Farther Down The Road.” Alan now helps others by sharing his story of faith and hope. His message is simple; grief and loss offer the opportunity for ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. He believes that healing begins when we once again give of ourselves by helping others. Alan speaks and plays his music for churches and grief organizations around the country. In 2008 Alan will release his third CD of original music about the journey bereaved families must walk. Alan has performed at National Conferences for The Compassionate Friends, Bereaved Parents of the USA, and the World Gathering on Bereavement. Alan will travel and speak 120 times in 2008 for local chapters of TCF, BP-USA, and other grief organizations dedicated to helping families grieving the loss of a child. In February of 2008 Alan released his third CD “More Songs From the Journey” which features “Celebrate the Children” which is the anthem of his concerts and events this year. To learn more about Alan and to get his tour schedule, go to: www.everashleymusic.com. Alan appeared on the radio show Healing the Grieving Heart to discuss “Learning to Live Again After Loss.” To hear his interview with Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley, click on the following link: www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley033006.mp3 Alan appeared a second time on the radio show Healing the Grieving Heart to discuss, “The Holidays, Helpful or Hurtful?” to hear his interview with Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley, click on the following link: www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley122508.mp3

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