Connections Program FAQs
What is the Connections program?
Heartstrings Connections program is a one-to-one peer support program founded on the principle that talking about your loss with someone who has had a similar loss will provide connection, validation and support, as well as initiate healing and hope.
What is a Connections Match?
A Connections Match is the pairing of a referred, newly bereaved parent, with a Support Parent who has had a similar loss.
What is a Support Parent?
Support Parents are carefully chosen, trained parent volunteers who provide one-to-one support to newly bereaved parents. Support Parents provide emotional support, validation and encouragement. We seek bereaved parents, both men and women, who have experienced a loss more than one year ago. Support Parents are required to complete an application and participate in Heartstrings comprehensive Connections Support Parent training.
How long will a Connections Match last?
All Connections Matches are arranged for three (3) months time and are supervised by the Director of Support Services to ensure the newly bereaved parent is receiving the support they have requested.
How often will my Support Parent contact me?
Throughout the three (3) month period of a Connections match, Heartstrings expects Support Parents to contact the newly bereaved parent a minimum of six (6) times. It is common for communication between the pair to occur more frequently, if that is what both agree to arrange.
Can I meet with my Support Parent in person?
Contact between a newly bereaved parent and his/her Support Parent can take the form of phone calls, emails and/or face-to-face meetings. The intent is to focus on the type of interaction that is most preferable for the newly bereaved parent, as well as realistic for the Support Parent.
Will my Support Parent and I be allowed to remain in touch after our three (3) month Connections Match is completed?
While a Connections match is arranged for a three (3) month period, many participants stay in touch with their Support Parent beyond that time, as deep support and close friendships can naturally develop. Although Heartstrings discontinues oversight of the relationship following the formal three (3) month match, we encourage these contacts to continue.
What if I just don’t want to talk?
Support Parents understand that there will be days when you may not want to talk much about your baby(ies) or your experience and that is completely normal. We encourage newly bereaved parents to have open communication with their Support Parents and let them know what you need. Perhaps on days such as those, a supportive email from your Support Parent will be what you need.
What if I don’t have a good fit with my Support Parent?
The Connections program works best when there is a comfortable fit between a newly bereaved parent and his/her Support Parent. We realize that there will be times when a matched pair may not fit together the way we expected. Please contact Heartstrings at any time if you have concerns about your match. We want to provide you with what you need to begin healing.
What if I don’t have a good fit with my newly bereaved parent?
The Connections program works best when there is a comfortable fit between a Support Parent and the newly bereaved parent with whom you have been matched. We realize that there will be times when a matched pair may not fit together the way we expected. Please contact Heartstrings at any time if you have concerns about your match. We want to provide you and the newly bereaved parent with what you both need.
What if my newly bereaved parent says something that really concerns me?
Although Support Parents receive Heartstrings’ required Connections program training, we realize they are not trained mental health clinicians and we do not expect them to fulfill the role of one. Our training includes education on complicated grief and community resources, however we prefer for referrals and recommendations for these additional services to be overseen by the Director of Support Services or other appropriate Heartstrings staff member. If at any time, something a newly bereaved parent says or does is of concern, we expect that a Support Parent would contact Heartstrings’ Director of Support Services as soon as possible.
What if I don’t agree with how a newly bereaved parent is handling his/her grief?
The manner in which each parent manages and expresses their grief is truly unique to him/her. The role of the Support Parent is to be one of validation, encouragement and support. We believe that although a Support Parent may not be in agreement with choices a newly bereaved parent is making in their grief journey (ex: not yet visiting her baby’s gravesite), they can still fulfill their role as someone who accepts a parent where they are in their grief journey and allows them to feel supported.
What are the benefits of being a Connections Support Parent?
There are many benefits to being a volunteer support parent and some of them include
- Being there for someone who is in need
- Reaching out to others
- Being part of an organization that positively impacts the community
- Increasing your knowledge about grief, loss and bereavement for parents and families
- Further developing your own strength and encouragement
If you have additional questions about our Connections program, please contact Cheri Timmons, Director of Support Services at 336-335-9931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.