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MISS Foundation: Helping Families Deal With Grief

Gabrielle Applebury
parents consoling child

The MISS Foundation, which stands for Mothers in Sympathy and Support, was started by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore after the loss of her child. The foundation provides support and resources to those who have lost a child, as well as trainings and advocacy for the community.

Miss Foundation

In 1996, Cacciatore formed the MISS (Mothers in Sympathy and Support) Foundation, a non-profit, volunteered-based group that provides ongoing and immediate support to parents, children, and families who have suffered the loss of a child or whose child is facing death. The 501 (c) organization provides:

  • Support and resources to families who have lost a child
  • Risk management programs to help decrease infant mortality and improve maternal health.
  • Empowerment through community volunteerism
  • Economic assistance
  • Public policy analysis and legislative call-to-actions
  • Educational opportunities for medical and other professionals

The MISS Foundation, which is based in Phoenix, Arizona, has a diverse board of directors that includes medical personnel, safety officials and family members who have all experienced the loss of a child. The group also sponsors face-to-face support groups around the United States and in parts of Canada, England, Mexico, and France, as well as private online forums.

MISS Foundation Online Support Groups

Like the in-person support groups, the MISS Foundation's online forums offer help to those who have lost a child at any age or to those whose child is facing death. Forums include:

  • General bereavement
  • Loss of a teen or adult child
  • Pregnancy after a loss
  • Parenting after the loss of a child
  • Help for children who have lost a sibling
  • Support for parents whose loss is not so recent

Cacciatore notes that these groups, "... are a great alternative to in-person support groups. They are great for people who are in remote areas with no support groups nearby." Groups are made up of people from all over the world, "but these bereaved parents feel so many of the same things despite their culture and where they live. It's like they have this automatic connection with one another because there's no possible way someone who has not experienced the death of a child could understand how devastating it is."

MISS Foundation Training

If you are a medical or mental health professional, you can take an intensive four day training to get your certification in traumatic grief counseling. The training can count towards 30 continuing education units.

MISS Foundation Mckenna

Ashley Jodell, whose daughter Mckenna Jodell, passed away has inspired others by participating in the Kindness Project. The Kindness Project is all about passing on random acts of kindness. Every year, on her daughter Mckenna's birthday, she purchases a pre-ordered birthday cake for another child and leaves a little MISS Foundation embossed note for those picking up the cake. MISS Foundation notes can be downloaded or ordered if you'd like to use them yourself.

MISS Foundation Care Farm

Located near Sedona, Arizona, the Care Farm houses animals that have been rescued from abuse and neglect. Connecting with animals who are learning to heal their own traumas can be an incredibly powerful and meaningful experience for those who have also been through inconceivably painful experiences. Visits can be scheduled via the MISS Foundation website.

Selah Grief Retreat

The Selah Grief Retreat is a four-day retreat that focuses on processing your grief experience. Dr. Cacciatore, as well as other mental health professionals, run the retreat program.

MISSing Angels Bill

When Dr. Cacciatore's daughter was born, the family never received a birth certificate, only a death certificate. Dr. Cacciatore and members of her foundation created the MISSing Angels Bill and as of December 2007, 21 states are now offering parents of born still children a certificate of birth in addition to a death certificate to honor their existence. Cacciatore notes, "These women all gave birth. To deny this baby's birth is an incredible slap in the face...If a woman gives birth to a stillborn baby, she should be allowed to get a birth certificate. That relationship between mother and baby is sacred and should be honored."

Joanne Cacciatore

In 1994, Dr. Cacciatore lost her daughter Cheyenne, who was born still. She notes, "When my daughter died, there were no systems in place providing support for me or my living children." Her experience propelled her to create the MISS Foundation a couple years later. Her first support group in Arizona was started a year after she began the foundation. This led to her creating private online forums for bereaved parents and other family members impacted by the loss of a child. She notes that they "...now have more than 75 support groups internationally."

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore

Joanne Cacciatore's Education

Cacciatore notes that she, "...initially started training medical professionals because [she] had a less than ideal experience in the hospital with [her] caregivers...." after her loss. To further her education and better under the grief process, she went back to school and received two bachelor's degrees, as well as a master's degree in social work, and in October 2007, received her Doctorate of Philosophy in Human Science. In 2007, she received the prestigious Hon Kachina Award for her volunteering and work with families in mourning. She was also awarded a Fellowship on Thanatology.

Joanne Cacciatore's Current Roles

She currently serves as the program coordinator in the College of Human Services at Arizona State University. She also is a researcher studying the impact of traumatic experiences on the brain. She has authored five books and is a founding member of the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation. In addition, she has served as chair for the Sudden Infant Death Advisory Council and is a member of the Unexplained Infant Death Advisory Council.

The Importance of the MISS Foundation

The MISS Foundation provides incredible resources and support to those who have lost a child, as well as those who may be working with families who have experienced this type of loss.

MISS Foundation: Helping Families Deal With Grief