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Sasha Mudlaff comforts grieving children


Sasha J. Mudlaff is director of Hamilton’s Academy of Grief and Loss, a branch of Hamilton’s Funeral Home. Even though her father, Carlton Peterson, is president of Hamilton’s, Mudlaff never thought she would end up working there.

“I knew I wanted to work with kids, but I didn’t expect that I would be working in that area,” she said.

While earning her undergraduate degree in psychology at Cornell College, Mudlaff interned at Hamilton’s and helped develop a program to assist children in dealing with grief. The experience drove her to study the psychology of grieving children as a graduate student at Columbia University.

After receiving her master’s degree, Mudlaff returned to the funeral home as a children’s grief consultant. It wasn’t until the Academy of Grief became a separate operating division of Hamilton’s, however, that she knew she was where she belonged.

“I think my dad is an incredible visionary, very cutting edge,” Mudlaff said. “He had a dream of the Academy years before it happened. When we launched it in 1996, I just thought, ‘This is my dream job.’ My dad’s dream was coming true, and since then it’s just been growing, helping more and more people and kids. It isn’t what I expected, but this is it.”

This is a hectic time of year for Mudlaff. “The busiest time for me, because I do so much work with children, is the fall,” she said. “School starts and it’s a transitional time, so they deal with new aspects of grief. They make new friends and have to explain what happened. Then the holiday season magnifies for them that that special person is missing.”

Mudlaff helps children by providing grief education, information and referrals for recovery services. She serves as a children’s grief counselor and is a consultant for Hospice of Central Iowa. She also speaks on the subject of grief for numerous schools and organizations. Mudlaff has been an adviser and co-author of three books for grieving children; two for children who have lost a parent; and one, called “A Terrible Thing Happened,” for children who have witnessed trauma or violence.

“I wrote the [epilogue] to help adults help the kids,” she said. “The guide includes helpful suggestions and resources to help kids who have been through specific kinds of trauma.”

Mudlaff says she’s lucky to have found a career to which she is so well suited. There is one thing she still dreams of, however.

“My dream is the Academy moving into a new space separate from the funeral home,” she said.

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