Hospice of Santa Barbara’s I Have a Friend Program


Hospice of Santa Barbara endeavors to meet the needs of all individuals in the community who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Understanding that children and adolescents often have the hardest time adapting to loss, the organization has focused much of its programming on their unique needs. One of the most important programs that Hospice of Santa Barbara maintains is I Have a Friend, which pairs young individuals struggling with grief with a trained adult volunteer who has also experienced the loss of a parent at a young age.

When children experience the loss of a parent, they often feel that their lives will never again be the same. They can feel lost and abandoned. The I Have a Friend mentor program allows these young people to share their feelings with someone who has experienced something very similar. The child will have a companion for as long as he or she needs one. The mentee can explore some of the most sensitive subjects in an open and supportive environment with the mentor, who in turn offers support and practical guidance on the hurdles that will come.

Research has shown that unaddressed grief among children and teenagers can seriously impact their functioning and personality. When these young people do not have the coping skills they need to process grief, they may turn to violence, drugs, or alcohol. I Have a Friend offers a healthy outlet for these children and the opportunity to form a real bond with someone who has experienced the same deep loss.

Recognizing that the child’s life will never be the same, the mentor offers a positive example for how to process and deal with the pain of loss. The mentor serves as a symbol that happiness and wholeness can be achieved no matter how the child may feel in the years immediately following a major loss.