Helping Children Cope
Pamela Green Hawkins
Private practice, San Francisco and Corte Madera, CA
This chapter addresses the role of the school mental health professional when a child's life has been touched by death. Because of an increased interest in issues related to death and dying since the 1960s, there is now a greater understanding of the bereavement process in general. Much consideration has been given to the special needs and problems faced by children in mourning. Special attention to their conceptions of death and how they relate to the resolution of grief has provided both prevention and intervention strategies for a variety of circumstances. In addition, attention to the role of available support systems has suggested the potential significance of the social context of the school. An informed professional can effectively use the school environment to offer understanding, stability, and support to a child in mourning and can monitor and respond to the progress of the grieving process.
Although people have been going through the grieving process for thousands of years, special circumstances of our present culture place an extra burden on the resolution of the process. We are acutely aware of the high price in mental distress and illness paid by those individuals with unresolved grief. Numerous retrospective studies and many anecdotal records relate bereavement to various physical and psychological stresses and impairments. The empirical evidence suggests that increasingly people seek help with grieving and turn to mental health professionals. Whether because of the secularization of the age or the increased mobility of the population, people less often look to religious leaders or institutions for healing