Children Also Grieve: Talking about Death and Healing

By Shen, Yu-Pei | Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Children Also Grieve: Talking about Death and Healing


Shen, Yu-Pei, Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research


Children also grieve: Talking about death and healing

Linda Goldman

Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publisher

Do children grieve? What is their grieving process like? How do we as adults or significant others in children's lives help them with their grieving process? This author uses a reader friendly manner of writing to cover these concerns for parents, caregivers, teachers, counselors, and whoever cares about a child's grief. She also provides many practical and easy to use activities suitable for the developmental level of children, lessons for adults to apply when working with grieving children, and activities for children themselves to help them comprehend grief at their verbal and cognitive level.

The first two sections of this book are to be used with children, including "Henry's story" and "My memory book." "Henry's story" is a picture-story book, which is often appealing to children. The author discusses death and grief through a dog, who talks about his experience and his observations of his friends when dealing with the death of their significant other. This kind of writing style matches the fantasy and imaginary world of young children, which enables them to relate easier to the incidents and feelings mentioned in the story. Throughout the story, there are many interactive questions that correspond to the content of the story, providing children opportunities to express their feelings and thoughts about similar situations they may be facing.

"My memory book" is a structured activity in which children write down their own unique experiences with death, loss, or grief. The interactive part of the story helps children understand death, loss, and grief through a manner of education. This is an opportunity for children to express their real experiences. The message, which is conveyed through a chance to put grief experiences into words and drawing, is that someone cares and understands their feelings, which is healing for children. Altogether, these activities not only provide the educational part of normalization of loss and death and its grieving process, but also provide opportunities for children to grieve and to brainstorm strategies to cope with grief feelings. What is behind the story and the interactive activities is the therapeutic message that it is acceptable to grieve and to express those feelings and thoughts about the person they have lost. The empathetic understanding and acceptance of grief, and the freedom to explore and discuss their feelings and thoughts, are therapeutic in helping children through grief experiences and to promote emotional development for young children.

The author does not specify the appropriate ages of children for this book, nor does she provide clear instructions for applying this book when working with children's grief. These oversights reduce the applicability of this book. It is apparent that many interactive questions are developed based on some of the concerns raised about death as a result of preoperational thinking patterns. Nevertheless, without indication of appropriate ages for this book, it may be challenging for parents or teachers to utilize this book. …

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