When Tara and Todd Storch donated their daughter’s organs after she died due to a skiing accident, they experienced a different kind of grief.
“It’s a complicated grief – one mixed with the terrible shock of the sudden loss of your loved one, mixed with the gratitude that your loved one was able to help others with a second chance of life. That is what organ donation is – a mix of grief and gratitude,” says Tara.
Tara and Todd’s 13-year-old daughter, Taylor, was able to save or improve the lives of five people. This gave the couple a sense of joy, but that joy didn’t take away the terrible pain they felt after losing their daughter.
Tara’s brother stepped in and gave her the name of a grief counselor who helped her and her family navigate through the many emotions surrounding Taylor’s death.
“Without my brother, we wouldn’t have had any idea on where to find emotional support,” Tara says. “Many donor families are not as blessed as we were. They are struggling just to get through the day. They don’t know how they will go on or where they can turn. We really felt that we could help.”
Out of their pain, the Storches found a way to help others: by creating the non-profit organization, Taylor’s Gift, based in Coppell.
Tara and Todd partnered with trained volunteers and the country’s leading virtual support program, Heritage Cares, designed to help individuals struggling with stress, substance misuse, suicidal thoughts, and other behavioral health situations, including grief.
Heritage Cares provide Caring Guides who have walked their own path of grief and lend support to donor families.
“There’s no perfect way to grieve, although we’ve heard about the stages of grief…people get stuck [into] thinking there is a certain way to grieve, and that’s not our experience. Grief is a lifelong process, it’s different for different people and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Sometimes you just need a safe space to talk about these things and that’s where the Caring Guides come in,” says Rich Jones, EVP and Executive Director of Heritage Cares.
Taylor’s Gift has repackaged this partnership for donor families into the Kindred Hearts Program. Families will receive grief support at no cost for as long as they need it.
“We want these families to know we are here to help them go on,” says Elizabeth Hughes, Ph.D., director of grief support services for Taylor’s Gift. “Nationally, there are very few grief support resources specifically dedicated to organ donor families. Our Kindred Hearts Program offers peer-led grief support groups as well as individual and family support. Our trained Caring Guides walk one-on-one with donor families as they navigate the challenges of grief. Taylor’s Gift is proud to offer these services as a natural extension of our mission. Doing so ensures that just as their loved one’s gift goes on, they can too.”
Organ donation is a big decision; however, the benefits are rewarding. According to organdonor.gov, there are over 106,810 people on the national transplant waiting list, with a new name being added to the list every nine minutes. Every donor can save up to eight lives and enhance up to seventy-five more.
The motto for Taylor’s Gift is: “Their gift goes on; You can too.” Tara knew that creating the Kindred Hearts program was necessary when the Epidemiology Research Group in Organ Transplantation at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine reached out to her about studying the support that the Kindred Hearts program would provide to organ donor families.
“It is incredibly validating to have Johns Hopkins recognize the value and need of a dedicated emotional support program for organ donor families,” says Tara. “The need is enormous, and the fact that others, like prestigious Johns Hopkins, are seeing it, is a very hopeful sign.”
Taylor’s Gift will launch its Kindred Hearts program starting January 2022. For more information regarding the new Kindred Hearts Program, visit TaylorsGift.org, or call 469-359-7575.