We aren’t comfortable with grief. We don’t understand it. That means this universal human experience is typically unacknowledged or silenced. It leads to grieving people feeling confused, frustrated and ashamed. It causes support people to unintentionally harm when they mean to help. And it creates isolation where there is enormous potential for connection.
WPSU is working to change that with Speaking Grief, an initiative that uses every available platform to engage and educate our community: a documentary, website, social media presence, radio reporting, events and educational outreach. We’re also currently working to develop a grief support app. Each component is complementary yet able to stand on its own.
In sharing stories of bereaved families in our region, we realized that the universal nature of grief meant we needed to create a project that would provide needed resources to not only our local community, but to the entire country. Expanding the scope of the project enabled us to develop tools that serve our own Central Pennsylvania audience and provide the same service to local communities and organizations across the nation.
The documentary, which premiered locally in May 2020, explores the reality of grief and addressing misconceptions by sharing diverse stories of grieving families and interviews with grief professionals. The website extends learning on what it means to grieve and what it means to offer support, housing roughly 600 unique videos along with dozens of pages of instructional content. To encourage conversation on a difficult topic, we developed a toolkit for screening the film and awarded 30 mini grants to assist grief organizations and public media stations with hosting events and/or reporting radio stories of grief in their communities that will be aggregated on our site.
The success of this project has been the result of strong, sustained collaboration across units: production, development, multimedia, instructional design and marketing. We have also been intentional about building external relationships, collaborating with grief organizations throughout the initiative and keeping them informed of new developments via a monthly e-newsletter. The network we’ve built has been invaluable. We are able to engage these organizations to amplify our promotions with minimal effort and expense. As a university licensee, we leveraged our relationship with Penn State to offer continuing education credits both through the College of Nursing and through the Hershey Medical Center for those who attend the local screening event (postponed due to COVID-19).