While grief is a natural part of life, one organization is working to ensure that no one has to go through it alone. Tides is bringing individuals in our community together to provide support for children and adults who are experiencing the loss of a loved one. This local nonprofit refers to itself as a “grief support network” and offers different programs for individuals to get the support they need.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and while grief is a normal response to loss, it can cause intense and sometimes long-lasting emotional reactions. According to Mental Health America, these can include anxiety, depression, fatigue, obsession, and thoughts of suicide. Tides understands the many faces of grief and is dedicated to supporting each member of our community through the grieving process.

This year, Tides is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Since the very beginning, Tides Nights, evenings where groups for individuals of all ages meet to support each other during their healing processes, have been an organizational staple. This core programming offers separate groups for children of different ages, and adults can choose a group based on the type of loss they are experiencing.

“When it started, there were seven families [at the first Tides Night],” said Holly Oxendale, Tides’ Executive Director. “Now, on a busy night, we have anywhere from 50-60 people at the sessions. It shows the impact we’re making on the community and that we are able to spread awareness and reach more individuals who could use the support during a difficult time.”

In addition to Tides Nights, the organization has begun to offer school programming throughout Centre County.  By connecting with K-12 schools, Tides is able to provide direct resources and support groups for grieving students. The program has seen high demand since it was launched in January 2022.

“Angie Kemp oversees our school programming. She works with each one of the schools and counselors individually to figure out the program that would best suit each school,” said Holly. “She’s wrapping up her first full year of the program, and during that time, she’s supported over 150 students, has been in five of the Centre County School Districts, and 12 schools.”

In response to the lack of programming available for young children, Tides was inspired to get more involved with the schools and support students with the emotions surrounding grief.

“There are many statistics and research that back the fact that children are disenfranchised grievers, which means they are forgotten about sometimes. We have support programs out there for adults, but there’s not as many for children,” said Holly. “There’s a lot of research that if a child has gone through a significant death in the family, they are more likely to exhibit behavior such as acting out or dropping grades. We want to be able to support these kids so they can connect with others and know they aren’t alone.”

So far, the organization has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from children, parents, and school counselors about the school program. Many participating children would recommend it to someone else who is going through a similar experience of loss.  

Tides recently received multiple grants from Centre Foundation’s Field-of-Interest and Centre PACT programs to help support this new school programming.

The Field-of-Interest program is comprised of unique endowment funds established by donors to support various causes and/or geographical areas across Centre County. Tides received a $1,203 grant to provide grief and loss support groups in Philipsburg schools from the Philipsburg Area Fund. This fund was established by a group of Philipsburg residents who wanted to support the area but not restrict the fund to a singular organization.

“This grant was specifically to allow us to support students in Philipsburg and that included supporting staff, grief toolboxes for counselors, and supplies for the program itself,” said Holly.

Centre PACT is the Foundation’s hands-on, student-driven philanthropy program for high school students to discuss and fund programs that will impact the county’s youth. Tides received a $3,059 grant from the Centre PACT Class of 2023 to support their school programming.

“This grant went specifically towards purchasing supplies for the activities in the school programming and the bags of hope at the end of each session. Each student takes home a bag of hope, which includes a book, a journal, a book for their family, a $5 gift card, and some comfort items,” said Holly.

Tides’ mission is “to make sure that everyone knows that they don’t have to grieve alone.” A large focus at their organization currently is to raise awareness about these programs so people in the community know that Tides is a resource to turn to when they need support.

If you’re interested in getting involved with Tides, they are looking for volunteers to facilitate Tides Nights, help with school programming, and assist with administrative tasks. Visit Tides’ website to learn more about their organization and how they provide grief support services for the community.