A photographer kneels down in the sand while taking a photo of a woman walking her dog beneath a pier by the ocean.


Speaking Grief explores the transformative experience of losing a family member in a death- and grief-avoidant society. This national public media initiative includes a one-hour television documentary, media-rich website, social media campaign, and numerous community engagement events, all aimed at starting a national conversation about grief.

Moving away from the idea that grief is a problem that needs to be “fixed,” Speaking Grief validates the experience of grievers and guides those wishing to support them. There is no “right” way to grieve. By sharing diverse representations of bereavement, Speaking Grief illustrates that grief is a universal, yet individual experience.

Working with Grief Organizations

Collaboration is at the heart of this project. The New York Life Foundation is at the forefront of investing in the bereavement field by supporting organizations and initiatives that increase awareness and access to grief services in addition to providing free bereavement resources.

The support of the New York Life Foundation is making possible the development of this initiative from WPSU to continue to advance the important work already being done in this field. WPSU worked with grief professionals and organizations across the country to understand the issues and identify families to interview and to share their stories.

Advisory Board


Elizabeth Brady

Associate Teaching Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences Penn State

After her son, Mack, died suddenly in 2012, Elizabeth Brady began reading widely from other bereaved parents. But, as many of us discover, sharing our stories helps illuminate the path, but we must each walk them ourselves. Elizabeth's essays can be found on opentohope.com, modernloss.com, and in the collection Bodies of Truth: Personal Narratives on Illness, Disability, and Medicine. She and her family founded the Mack Brady Memorial Soccer Fund in his honor.

Michaeleen (Micki) Burns, PhD

Chief Clinical Officer, Licensed Psychologist, Judi’s House and JAG Institute

Micki is the Chief Clinical Officer at Judi’s House and JAG Institute (JH/JAG) and adjunct faculty at the University of Colorado. JH/JAG is a comprehensive family bereavement center in Denver. A Licensed Psychologist with more than two decades of experience providing therapeutic assessment and support to families facing adversity, Micki has witnessed the lasting impact of unaddressed grief. She is dedicated to ensuring appropriate care is available for all and raising childhood bereavement to a level of critical public importance. At JH/JAG she oversees the direct service, research, and training departments working towards a vision where no child is alone in grief.

Kevin R. Carter, MSW, LCSW

Clinical Director The Uplift Center for Grieving Children

Kevin R. Carter practiced in a variety of settings as a clinician, administrator and educator in community mental health, residential care for adolescents, hospice child/teen bereavement and served as a field director in social work education. His primary interests are in grief/loss/trauma and how these issues impact children, youth and families and in particular, the African American community.

Megan Devine, LPC

Psychotherapist, Speaker, Grief Advocate

Megan Devine is a psychotherapist, speaker and grief advocate. She is the best-selling author of It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief & Loss in a Culture that Doesn’t Understand. Megan’s animated video How to Help a Grieving Friend has been viewed over 28 million times and is used in trainings around the world.

Read an excerpt from It’s OK That You’re Not OK.

Cristina M. Chipriano, LCSW-S

Former Director of Spanish Programs and Outreach Bo’s Place, Bereavement Center, Houston, TX

Cristina M. Chipriano joined Bo’s Place in January 2015. She directed their community education and outreach to the Hispanic/Latino community and oversaw their Spanish-language programs. Cristina has a B.S. in Human Development and Family Science from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.S.W. from the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

Annette R. March-Grier

President and Co-FounderRoberta’s House, Nonprofit Grief Support Center, Baltimore, MD

Annette R. March-Grier is President and Co-Founder of Roberta’s House. Founded in 2008, Roberta’s House is a globally recognized, non-profit grief support center for children, adults, and families in underserved communities in Maryland. Annette’s work to provide grief support and education to underserved areas of Baltimore and its surrounding counties cope with loss is was featured on CNN; Annette was recognized by CNN Heroes in 2014. She is also a registered nurse and a licensed mortician.

Kim Ruocco, MSW

Vice President, Suicide Prevention and Postvention Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)

Kim Ruocco, MSW, is an internationally known subject matter expert who uses her education, personal experience and information gathered from thousands of survivors to help others more fully understand suicide. Ms. Ruoco developed the "TAPS Suicide Postvention Model" which provides a roadmap to Posttraumatic growth after suicide loss. She is the surviving widow of Marine Corps Major John Ruocco, who died by suicide in 2005.


Alesia K. Alexander, LCSW, CT

Co-Director Tapestries Grief Support

Alesia K. Alexander is a community and youth development advocate with a focus on at-risk children and teens who have lost a loved one to death. She’s served as a consultant on grief, loss, gang intervention, and inclusion in the U.S. and internationally and has authored four books: Sunflowers and Rainbows for Tia: Saying Goodbye to Daddy, A Mural for Mamita/Un Mural Para Mamita, Dream Clouds, and Tapestries: A Creative & inclusive Approach to Grief Support with Young People & Communities.

Mandy Benoualid

Co-founder and CEO, Keeper

Editor, TalkDeath

Mandy Benoualid is the co-founder and CEO of Keeper - a collaborative online memorial platform - where friends and family can remember and celebrate a lost loved one. Founded in 2013, thousands of families, along with cemeteries and funeral homes across North America are now using Keeper’s platform to share their stories. Mandy is also the editor of the death-positive media site, TalkDeath.com, interviews death professionals for the web series #TalkDeath, and speaks professionally at funeral and end-of-life conferences.

Vicki Jay

CEO National Alliance for Children’s Grief

Vicki Jay serves as CEO for the National Alliance for Children’s Grief. Her career includes Founder and Executive Director of Rays of Hope Children’s Grief Center. She is recognized for her role in children’s advocacy and for her strengths in public speaking and community education. Jay has received many awards and recognitions for her work with nonprofits and in the field of bereavement, including the National Jefferson Award for Community Service, a prestigious national recognition honoring community service in America. Recipients are “ordinary people who do extraordinary things without expectation of recognition.”

Julie Kaplow, Ph.D.

Executive Director Trauma and Grief Center at The Hackett Center for Mental Health

Dr. Kaplow serves as Executive Vice President of Trauma and Grief Programs and Policy, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute; and Executive Director of The Trauma and Grief Center at The Hackett Center for Mental Health. The primary purpose of The Trauma and Grief Center is to raise the standard of care and increase access to best-practice mental health care among youth and families exposed to trauma and loss through intervention development, research, training, and policy.

Katie Kostohryz, Ph.D., LPC

Assistant Teaching Professor of Rehabilitation & Human Services and Counselor Education Penn State

Dr. Katie Kostohryz teaches the Grief and Loss Counseling course at Penn State. Kostohryz is also a Licensed Professional Counselor and over the past 15 years, has worked with individuals and families grieving a variety of losses. In the community, she serves on numerous organizations, including Learning to Live: What's Your Story? to encourage individuals to share their stories of how they learned to live with loss.

Ted Rynearson, M.D.

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry University of Washington

Ted Rynearson, M.D. is a practicing, clinical psychiatrist, a national and international clinical teacher, and serves as a consultant to the Survivors of Violent Loss Program. Now semi-retired, Ted has focuses on researching the effects of complicated bereavement and violent death. He is the founder of Violent Loss Bereavement Society and the author of Retelling Violent Death and the editor of Violent Death: Resilience and Intervention Beyond the Crisis.

Project Team

  • Lindsey Whissel Fenton Producer, Writer, and Director lrw14@psu.edu
  • Mindy McMahon Executive Producer
  • Cole Cullen Creative Director
  • Christel Cornilsen Director of Photography
  • Tyler Henderson Director of Photography
  • Mark Stitzer Editor
  • Kristin Bittner Instructional Designer
  • Steve Nelson Web Designer
  • Chris Divyak Web Developer
  • Holly Lowe Development Manager hal5220@psu.edu
  • Jeffrey A. Hughes Director of Broadcast Operations and Programming
  • Laura Miller Marketing Director
  • Adam Simpson Social Media Strategist
  • Sarah Bodnar Social Media Design
  • Matt Caracappa Media Contact mcaracappa@psu.edu

About WPSU Penn State

WPSU Penn State is a PBS and NPR member station and a service of Penn State Outreach, supporting the community as a trusted source for news, information, and education.

As a next-generation media organization, WPSU creates, curates, and distributes content on screens both large and small. We are a national leader in the creation of public media and awareness initiatives: multimedia projects that address our nation’s most pressing social issues.

About the New York Life Foundation

Inspired by New York Life’s tradition of service and humanity, the New York Life Foundation has, since its founding in 1979, provided nearly $280 million in charitable contributions to national and local nonprofit organizations. The Foundation supports programs that benefit young people, particularly in the areas of educational enhancement and childhood bereavement. Childhood bereavement is one of society’s most pervasive issues: one in fourteen Americans will lose a parent or sibling before age 18 and the vast majority of children experience a significant loss by the time they complete high school. Yet bereaved children remain largely unseen and under-served within their communities and schools, with few outlets to express their grief.

Recognizing the critical need to provide greater support to grieving children and their families, the New York Life Foundation established childhood bereavement as a funding focus area in 2008 and has invested nearly $50 million to bereavement organizations across the nation. As our commitment to the bereavement “field” has grown, we’ve been proud to serve not only as a funder but as an active partner to a wide range of nonprofits, helping to raise public awareness about grief’s impact as well as build communication and collaboration among grantees. The issue is at the heart of our company’s mission and day-to-day business, resulting in robust employee engagement across the country in support of grieving children.

The Foundation also encourages and facilitates the community involvement of employees and agents of New York Life through its Volunteers for Good program and Grief-Sensitive Schools Initiative. To learn more, please visit www.newyorklifefoundation.org.