The Lisa Project: Teens Helping Teens Deal with the Loss of a Parent
By David Glass
April 17, 2023
Alec Dorf of Bloomfield Hills was in 9th grade when his mother Lisa passed away from cancer. The challenges of helping with end-of-life care, on top of the isolation of the Covid lockdown, became the defining moments for him to create a new program to help his fellow high schoolers deal with the loss of a parent.
The Lisa Project, named after his mother Lisa Dorf (z”l), helps grieving teens connect peer-to-peer to share their experience, feelings and strength. It also helps them design activities that according to Dorf, “help you expand in ways so that the experience of tragedy doesn’t hold you back.” Activities include encouraging students to make a playlist of favorite songs and videos, writing down feelings, listening to podcasts, being active and reading. Dorf also has tips for teachers, providing ways that they can support students who are grieving the loss of a parent. “Just having a smile on your face, positive reinforcements, giving students time for themselves. If you have a teacher who is positive, it truly makes a difference.”
Dorf is bringing the program to his Bloomfield Hills High School first and has plans to expand it to other local high schools with the goal to help as many students as possible.
myJewishDetroit (MJD) had the opportunity to talk to Alec some more about “The Lisa Project.”
MJD: How has the process of starting The Lisa Project shaped (or reshaped) your sense of Jewish values, particularly Tikkun Olam and healing the world?
Alec: Starting The Lisa Project helped me grasp a better understanding of what Tikkun Olam is, and by trying to help many people, you get a better understanding of what it means to actively heal the world.
MJD: What would you say to a young person who has a passion to heal the world and help others?
Alec: To someone with a passion for doing good, I would say don’t be afraid to act on it, even if it’s just one small idea. If you put that idea into action, it can have a big impact on our world today.
MJD: Why is personal connection of the kind The Lisa Project helps engender so important to young people going through the grieving process?
Alec: I feel like when you are grieving, it is better to not go through it alone, and it is so important to have an outlet where you can communicate, share feelings, and be valuable to people who could be dealing with the same feelings you have.
MJD: Can you tell us a little bit about the work your father Stu is doing to expand the reach of The Lisa Project to recently widowed spouses?
Alec: My dad is helping expand the Lisa Project by adding a part called Lisa’s Kitchen, where he will be doing videos of easy and healthy recipes that a widowed parent can prepare.
MJD: IS there anything else you want people to know about The Lisa Project and/or your journey to becoming a catalyst for change?
Alec: Yes, I will be speaking on behalf of the National Brain Tumor Society to Congress on May 8th and 9th to advocate for better and more accessible mental health options and more funding for brain tumor research. As well, I was highlighted at the State of the County.
With a clear desire to help others, Dorf reflects, “I’m happy that this is getting awareness. Mental health is a very big deal, and I want people in my situation to succeed, and have nothing to hold them back. If I can be a small part of that, that would make me feel so great.”
To learn more, visit The Lisa Project website.