It Makes a Difference...

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing.He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions. 

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)


At the end of June 2018, Chester Community Coalition was funded to begin providing trauma-informed counseling in Chester. Since that time, we have been working diligently to assemble a program that will provide high quality services to families dealing with the loss or violent injury of their loved one(s). 

During the following three months, we focused on securing partnerships for counselors to lead our groups and space in which to hold them.  We also used outreach to spread the word about the program and recruit clients.  None of these were simple or easy tasks, but thanks to the goodwill and cooperation of our partners, Child Guidance Resource Centers, Shiloh Baptist Church, Urban Affairs Coalition and our sponsor, the Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia, we got them done.

The program opened to its first cohort of five families at the end of September 2018.  As we serve this pioneering group, we continue to learn and shape our program to create the best possible experience for our clients.  Collaboratively, we are using the information from our challenges and successes to create a smoother process, clearer expectations, and more effective recruitment for the future.

Early feedback from participants and counselors has been positive about the learning taking place.  We sit together for meals, split into participant groups and come back together to close each evening.  Youth use art to explore their experiences, and adults share insights on their coping skills. 

Looking at the faces of the adults and children coming back week to week, it is clear that this program is making a difference to these ones. 

We believe that this difference will continue with time and your support.

We are currently recruiting for our spring session.  If you know families who can benefit from our program, please send them our way

Help us continue to make a difference.


Preparing for the first cohort required a lot of outreach.  We attended health fairs, community events, Back-to-School nights, and lots of meetings.  As we recruit for spring, the outreach continues. Here are a few pictures from our busy summer and fall.

Featured are two Back-to-School events, a workshop we conducted in partnership with The Women's Circle, the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Murder commemorated by the City of Chester's Community Liaison Office, the Grieving with Hope summit organized by Anitra Green and a Stand for Chester memorial event organized by Mother's and Father's No More Tears.
Thank you.

We want to take a moment to recognize the support of our donors.  Thanks to you, we are able to pay the rent; provide a meal to share among participants, group leaders, and volunteers; and give safe, door-to-door transportation.  These remove very real barriers to service for our families.  Your donations keep the program running! 

Special thanks go to the following donors:

Reformation Lutheran Church
Swarthmore Friends' Meeting
Congregation Beth Israel of Media
Mr. Grant Grissom, Swarthmore Presbyterian Church
Ms. Jennifer Lenway


Making Space

Take a peek into our counseling rooms at Shiloh Baptist Church!  Most of the furnishings belong to the church and some are community donations.  We are very grateful to Pastor Ashford and the Finance Committee of Shiloh Baptist Church for the use of their beautiful schoolrooms and Assembly Hall. 

They help to create the welcoming environment that allows families to focus on their healing

Complicated Grief

Grief is a natural response to an important or significant loss.  When people lose a loved one, there are strong feelings of pain, anger, denial, and sadness. In many cases, these feelings can ease over time.  In the case of complicated grief, however, these feelings do not ease over time and can interrupt the ability to move forward with life.  

From the Mayo Clinic: 

Different people follow different paths through the grieving experience. The order and timing of these phases may vary from person to person:

  • Accepting the reality of your loss
  • Allowing yourself to experience the pain of your loss
  • Adjusting to a new reality in which the deceased is no longer present
  • Having other relationships

These differences are normal. But if you're unable to move through these stages more than a year after the death of a loved one, you may have complicated grief. If so, seek treatment. It can help you come to terms with your loss and reclaim a sense of acceptance and peace.


During the first few months after a loss, many signs and symptoms of normal grief are the same as those of complicated grief. However, while normal grief symptoms gradually start to fade over time, those of complicated grief linger or get worse. Complicated grief is like being in an ongoing, heightened state of mourning that keeps you from healing.

Signs and symptoms of complicated grief may include:

  • Intense sorrow, pain and rumination over the loss of your loved one
  • Focus on little else but your loved one's death
  • Extreme focus on reminders of the loved one or excessive avoidance of reminders
  • Intense and persistent longing or pining for the deceased
  • Problems accepting the death
  • Numbness or detachment
  • Bitterness about your loss
  • Feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose
  • Lack of trust in others
  • Inability to enjoy life or think back on positive experiences with your loved one

Complicated grief also may be indicated if you continue to:

  • Have trouble carrying out normal routines
  • Isolate from others and withdraw from social activities
  • Experience depression, deep sadness, guilt or self-blame
  • Believe that you did something wrong or could have prevented the death
  • Feel life isn't worth living without your loved one
  • Wish you had died along with your loved one


It's not known what causes complicated grief. As with many mental health disorders, it may involve your environment, your personality, inherited traits and your body's natural chemical makeup.

Risk factors

Complicated grief occurs more often in females and with older age. Factors that may increase the risk of developing complicated grief include:

  • An unexpected or violent death, such as death from a car accident, or the murder or suicide of a loved one
  • Death of a child
  • Close or dependent relationship to the deceased person
  • Social isolation or loss of a support system or friendships
  • Past history of depression, separation anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Traumatic childhood experiences, such as abuse or neglect
  • Other major life stressors, such as major financial hardships


Complicated grief can affect you physically, mentally and socially. Without appropriate treatment, complications may include:

  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Anxiety, including PTSD
  • Significant sleep disturbances
  • Increased risk of physical illness, such as heart disease, cancer or high blood pressure
  • Long-term difficulty with daily living, relationships or work activities
  • Alcohol, nicotine use or substance misuse


It's not clear how to prevent complicated grief. Getting counseling soon after a loss may help, especially for people at increased risk of developing complicated grief. In addition, caregivers providing end-of-life care for a loved one may benefit from counseling and support to help prepare for death and its emotional aftermath.

  • Talking. Talking about your grief and allowing yourself to cry also can help prevent you from getting stuck in your sadness. As painful as it is, trust that in most cases, your pain will start to lift if you allow yourself to feel it.
  • Support. Family members, friends, social support groups and your faith community are all good options to help you work through your grief. You may be able to find a support group focused on a particular type of loss, such as the death of a spouse or a child. Ask your doctor to recommend local resources.
  • Bereavement counseling. Through early counseling after a loss, you can explore emotions surrounding your loss and learn healthy coping skills. This may help prevent negative thoughts and beliefs from gaining such a strong hold that they're difficult to overcome.
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