Supporting a child when a loved one passes is one of the most difficult things for parents and caretakers to deal with. When the death is a result of violence, it adds even more trauma to an already devastating
situation. Without intervention, these children are often the “living victims” after a homicide occurs, left to struggle with unexpressed anger, post-traumatic stress, hypervigilance, fear and more.
For nearly four decades, Hospice Savannah has provided home-based and in‐patient hospice care and bereavement services to families in Greater Savannah, Georgia. In 2016, when Savannah’s homicide rate
spiked due to gang-related violence, they took the lead in creating We the Living, a children’s grief and violence support network that addresses the unique needs of children who have lost a loved one to
We the Living support groups are led by master’s-level counselors, all of whom are trained in childhood trauma. Their work is uniquely supported by a music therapist, who teaches children how music can be
an effective tool for channeling emotions. Each child is given an iPod Shuffle and iTunes gift card to keep and is encouraged to create a personal playlist and to share songs that have special meaning.
At the front lines of We the Living are the Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools, the Chatham County Victim Witness Assistance Program and the Savannah Metropolitan Police, who provide essential help in
identifying youth impacted by violence, advocate on behalf of grief counseling, and encourage parents and caretakers to take steps toward healing for their children.
“Together, our partnership is helping to ensure our community is equipped to address trauma‐related grief,” said Jamey Espina, Vice President, Development and Community Services. “To-date,
we have trained nearly 100 staff members, school counselors, social workers and volunteers to provide support. Our program outcomes are significant, measurable and meaningful, with participants demonstrating
improvement in key areas such as feeling supported, decreased fear and a reduction in loneliness. While we may not be able to prevent violence, together, we can help create a brighter future for those whose lives
are affected by it.”