Living Columns & Blogs

Tides marks 15th year of helping Centre County kids, teens through grief

Grief is something we all experience, but handle in different ways. It is unavoidable. This year marks the 15th year that the Tides program has been a resource in this community. Tides is a grief support and outreach group for children, teens and adults who have experienced the death of a loved one.

People ask what the name Tides represents. The name Tides likens the waves of the ocean to grief — sometimes the waves of the ocean are fierce, sometimes the waves of grief are tame. The hope is that someday one can walk from the torrent of grief out onto dry land.

As a hospice social worker, I saw there was a need for families with young children to have a place to share their grief and talk openly in a non-judgmental environment. Tides was started in 2003 with the help of Brookline Home Care and Hospice, The State College Area School District and some wonderful community volunteers. When Tides first began, six families gathered at Mount Nittany Middle School.

As school counselors and other helping professionals in the community started to learn about Tides and the resources this peer support group provided, the group grew; not just helping young children and their families, but also adults who had lost children and spouses who had lost partners.

Over the past three years the number of families Tides serves has tripled. We had 18 new families attend Tides just this past school year, serving 45 families total. Twice a month, during the school year, over 25 compassionate volunteers meet with families at Houserville Elementary school to listen to children, teens, and adults who all have one thing in common — the death of a loved one. Our first meeting will be Thursday, Sept. 6. Tides continues to be a free support group.

Part of our mission is to educate the community on grief and loss. Annually, we hold a grief conference called Grief Matters. In addition in 2018, Tides staff helped educate individuals from several local business and organizations on grief. Tides has proudly partnered with the Centre County United Way, Highmark’s Healthy High 5 Initiative, the Bestwick Foundation and the J.B. Griffin Foundation.

Through the years, the sentiments of our families remain the same; “Tides has been a life preserver for me and my family,” one mom said. All of us at Tides remember each family and their story and we have all had the honor to witness families walk out onto dry land.

If you know someone who has experienced the death of a loved one, or you would like to learn more about how you can support Tides, please call 692-2233 or email us at

Leslie Finton has a master’s degree in social work from Ohio State University. She was a founder of Tides and served as the executive director for 10 years. She currently serves on the Tides Board and is a member of the “Learning to Live: What’s Your Story” team.