Joseph Primo ’03 spent his college days as an archaeology major, excavating local sites such as Stonehill’s Daily Homestead and distant ruins such as the Mayan temples in Belize. The digs taught him about communities: how they function and how their people find meaning in times of joy and sorrow. Primo went on to pursue a master of divinity degree in end-of-life care at Yale. 

It was there that his interest in communities and spirituality evolved into a focus on grief. “Humans are spiritual beings who seek meaning from life,” he says. “But we lack a shared language to find meaning in grief. We often neglect grief or address it only through clichés. When people are given a community and caring environments to express their grief, they can find individual meaning.” 

Primo is the CEO of Good Grief, a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that offers free support to children and young adults who have lost parents or siblings. Fittingly, the roots of Good Grief can be traced back to another Stonehill alum. 

The organization, which now includes extensive peer support programs, was the vision of William Hector ’76. After working in several different Fortune 100 companies for 30 years, Hector found himself searching for a new path and a way to give back to his community. 

Hector and five of his friends discovered a need for support for grieving children in Morristown, N.J. “We were energized about the idea of starting a nonprofit to address this need, even though we knew it would be an uphill climb,” says Hector. 

“We started in a church basement with a flip chart and lots of coffee. We are now nationally recognized by several states as a best practice for grief support, and we are expanding our services in the Northeast.”  

While the nature of the work seems dark, Primo says, “Most people would rather not think of young parents or children dying. But our job is to support our community and assure people that grief is good. It serves a purpose.”