About Volunteer Grief Mentoring

“It was important to have someone to listen, and even more important to have someone who understood.”

– Rachel Courtney lost her father in a private plane crash. She was an ACCESS client and is now a Volunteer Grief Mentor.

Once the initial shock of the tragedy subsides, it is important for the grieving to find the support of others who have experienced a similar loss years earlier. Those who have lost loved ones in the past have a unique perspective of hope and serve as role models for those just beginning their journey through grief.

The ACCESS Volunteer Grief Mentor Program assists families and friends of loved ones lost in air disasters by providing a convenient and accessible volunteer telephone and email support network. This network brings together people who have experienced similar tragic losses. Volunteer Grief Mentors help those affected air disasters by providing firsthand insights on what to expect in the days, months, and years to come.

ACCESS partners mothers with mothers, orphans with orphans, survivors with survivors, etc. The bereaved gain the courage to survive from someone they can identify with,which helps them feel connected and enables them to understand that their feelings resulting from their grief and loss are “Normal”.

Each Volunteer Grief Mentor relays three basic concepts to the person seeking support:

1. He/she is not alone.
2. Reactions and feelings toward different situations are not abnormal, irrational or crazy.
3. There is a reliable structure in place that will provide a listening ear and resources to help cope with the grief.

How Grief Mentoring Works

“The help and kindness I received from ACCESS during the most despairing time of my life not only comforted me but helped me learn how to help others that have gone through a similar experience.”

– Shari Gemmill lost her mother and step-father on Egypt Air 990. She called ACCESS for help after her loss and is now a Volunteer Grief Mentor helping others through their grief.

  • Client requests help via our Toll-Free Helpline or website
  • The client’s information is immediately reviewed by ACCESS staff
  • Client is partnered up with a trained Volunteer Grief Mentor who has similarities to the client calling for help (based on their relationship to the deceased, age and other relevant information)
  • The Volunteer Grief Mentor contacts the client via telephone or email, as requested by the client
  • After the initial call the Volunteer Grief Mentor arranges for a follow-up call with the client and this process continues on an as needed basis
  • ACCESS sends the client a Support Services Guide, “For Survivors By Survivors” video, other relevant bereavement materials and a Quality of Care questionnaire

Average number of times a person is assisted:

  • Year 1: 5 to 10 times
  • Year 2: 4 to 5 times
  • Year 3: 3 to 5 times
  • Year 4: 2 times: usually during key trigger events such as anniversaries, birthdays and holidays
  • Year 5 and onward: 0-1 times at this point the bereaved are usually friends with their grief mentors and they check in with one another on anniversaries, memorials, birthdays and other trigger events

To apply to become a Volunteer Grief Mentor click here, or if you would like to receive care from a Volunteer Grief Mentor, please fill out our Get Help form. Thank you!


Surviving Sudden Loss: Stories from those who have lived it

Book proceeds benefit ACCESS
Purchase Here

Families We Have Helped:

Below are some of the air disasters that we have responded to:
Private Plane - 9/26/12
Rockingham County, VA
Private Plane - 2/27/11
Abu Dhabi
Private Plane - 12/22/10
Barrington, NY
Private Plane - 7/17/10
South Portland, ME
Air India Express 812 - 5/22/10
Mangalore, India
Afriqiyah Airways 8U771- 5/12/10
Tripoli, Libya
Ethiopian Airlines 409 - 1/25/10
Off of Na'ameh, Lebanon
Air France Flight 447 - 6/1/09
Atlantic Ocean
Turkish Airlines Flight 1951 - 2/25/09
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Continental Flight 3407 - 2/12/09
Clarence Center, NY
US Airways Flight 1549 - 1/15/09
Hudson River, NY
Aeroflot Flight 821 - 9/14/08
Perm, Russia
Spanair JK 5022 - 8/20/08
Madrid, Spain
TAM Airways JJ 3054 - 7/17/07
São Paulo, Brazil
Comair Flight 5191 - 8/27/06
Lexington, KY
Airbus A320-211 - 5/3/06
Off Sochi, Russia
Bellview Airlines - 10/23/05
West Caribbean Airways 708 - 8/16/05
Machiques, Venezuela
Air France Flight 358 - 8/2/05
Ontario, Canada
Kam Air Flight 904 - 2/3/05
Pamir Mountains, Afghanistan
Corporate Airlines 5966 - 10/19/04
Pettis Township, MO
Kish Airlines Flight 1770 - 2/10/04
United Arab Emirates
Georgian Express Flight 126 - 1/17/04
Ontario, Canada
Flash Airlines 604 - 1/3/04

Red Sea

Turkish Airlines 634 - 1/8/03

Diyarbakır Airport, Turkey

US Airways Express/Air Midwest Flight 5481 - 1/8/03

Charlotte, NC

American Flight 587 - 11/12/01

Queens, NY

The events of September 11, 2001

Private Plane - 12/3/00
Milltown, WI
Singapore Airlines 006 - 10/31/00

Chiang Kai-shek Internat'l Airport

Gulf Air Bus A320 - 8/23/00

Persian Gulf, Bahrain

Air France Concorde 4590 - 7/25/00

Gonesse, France

Alaska Airlines 261 - 1/31/00

Pacific Ocean

Egypt Air 990 - 10/31/99

Atlantic Ocean

American Airlines 1420 - 6/1/99

Little Rock, AR

Swissair 111 - 9/2/98

Atlantic Ocean

Private Plane - 8/4/98
Phillips, WI
TWA 800 - 7/17/96

US Air 427 9/8/94

Allegheny County, PA

Long Island, NY

Pan Am 103 - 12/21/88

Lockerbie, Scotland

TWA/United Airlines - Mid-Air Collision- 12/16/1960
Brooklyn & Staten Island, NY
and hundreds of other private, commercial and military air disasters

See Full List