GSN History

The Grief Support Network began in an effort to meet the needs of the grieving community and agencies that provide grief related services. In 1993, the members of the Heartland Widowed Person Service Board of Directors began receiving requests from young widows for support and access to resources for their grieving children. Recognizing the lack of resources in the Kansas City community for this particular population and desperate to remedy the situation, the board turned to the community members themselves in an effort to organize support in meeting the needs of the young widows and their children.

Shortly thereafter, fifteen agency members gathered at the Johnson County Mental Health Association in Lenexa, Kansas. Agencies represented at this initial meeting included Kansas City Hospice, both the Jewish and Catholic Family Services and members of the Johnson County Mental Health Association. The gathering was co-lead by Steven Hamilton and Nancy Trout and began with each member introducing themselves to the group and describing the grief services they provide to the community. The format of this initial meeting continues during each Grief Support Network meeting today. After discussing the need for community agency communication and collaboration in the Kansas City area, the group agreed to meet once a month in an effort to strengthen the connections made at that initial gathering. Members of the group felt that community agencies involved in providing grief related services in the community were fragmented and help was difficult to locate for persons actively engaged in the grieving process.

After three subsequent gatherings, the meeting site was moved to DW Newcomer’s funeral home on Brush Creek Boulevard. The group met at this location three times and then moved to the library of the Community Christian Church located in the Plaza area. Here, the group met for one year, but eventually relocated to the parlor of the United Methodist Church on Shawnee Mission Drive in Kansas after encountering parking issues. During this time, the Grief Support Network was incorporated as a charitable organization and the twenty member group elected its first officers and moved to its currently monthly meeting location, Village Presbyterian Church. Steve Hamilton became the first Grief Support Network president, Reverend Jennie Malewski the second, Sandy Doolittle serving as the third, and fourth president, Dr. Paige Stanfield-Myers and our current president, Vickie Mears. Members of the initial steering committees and board of directors included Nancy Crump, Kay Engler, Florence Biehl, and Father Jerry Spencer.

Since its meager beginnings the Grief Support Network has grown in membership consisting of individuals, agencies, and organizations serving community members in the Kansas City area. These members continue to meet each month to exchange ideas and disseminate information regarding the location of grief support services in the community. Additionally, the monthly meetings serve as a place for providers of grief related services to share in their own grieving process while fostering a supportive atmosphere to grow as a professional and exchange ideas. Finally, the Grief Support Network serves to build collegial networks in order to assist in client referrals to agencies that can meet their needs in the Kansas City area. This group continues to be the first group in any major metropolitan area designed to meet the needs of its grieving community members, work to develop connections within the grief field, and provide consistent grief-related education and support for service providers. The Grief Support Network continues to grow each year and welcomes any member interested in grief related services and networking within the field.