Helping Bereaved Children: A Handbook for Practitioners

Helping Bereaved Children: A Handbook for Practitioners

Helping Bereaved Children: A Handbook for Practitioners

Helping Bereaved Children: A Handbook for Practitioners


Now in a revised and expanded second edition, this popular casebook and text demonstrates a range of therapeutic approaches and interventions for children who have experienced loss. In-depth case examples--several of which are new or include follow-up reports--form the core of the book. The case material is presented in a handy two-column format that provides the reader not only with the content of the sessions, but also with the practitioner's accompanying thoughts and rationale for intervention. Illustrated are ways to help preschoolers through adolescents cope with different forms of bereavement, including death in the family, school, or community. Updated throughout with the latest concepts and methods, this second edition features entirely new chapters on art therapy and storytelling techniques, bereavement groups, and therapist self-care. Other essential new chapters focus on working with children who have witnessed school shootings and those grieving in the aftermath of terrorist attacks. A practical resource for all clinicians who treat children, this book is also an invaluable teaching tool.


Robert Kastenbaum (1972) wrote an article entitled "The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies." His point in that piece is that we often like to think of childhood as a kingdom where nobody dies. We attempt then to protect children from death. In fact, we are only protecting ourselves.

Children are no strangers to loss and death. They may experience deaths of grandparents, neighbors, and pets. They may even experience the deaths of friends, parents, and siblings. I teach a graduate course on Children and Death at The College of New Rochelle. As the class meets, I ask each student to recount his or her first death experience. Most experiences occur prior to the students' being 6 years old. Rarely has a student had a first encounter when he or she was older than 12. Even if children never have suffered a death, they are not strangers to loss. Many of them have had loss experiences such as divorce, separation, or relocation.

Children, then, do grieve. But their grief is often disenfranchised. They have little opportunity to publicly mourn, to express their grief, and to receive support. Their grief becomes manifest in indirect ways—sleep disturbances, physical complaints, acting-out behaviors, and regressive behaviors.

We need to find ways to help children deal with their grief. Yet helping grieving children is not easy. It is both difficult and different from helping adults cope with grief for anumber of reasons. First, children do not usually have the opportunity to choose counseling. The adults in their lives—parents, guardians, and teachers—often make that choice for them. This violation of the counseling contract—the assumption that the individual has reached out for assistance—is further complicated by the triangulated approaches to confidentiality that need to be negotiated between the child, counselor, and guardian.

Methods and approaches to helping grieving children have to be different as well. Nothing strikes more terror into the heart of many . . .

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