When Children Grieve: For Adults to Help Children Deal with Death, Divorce, Pet Loss, Moving, and Other Losses

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To watch a child grieve and not know what to do is one of the most difficult experiences for parents, teachers, and caregives. And yet, there are guidelines for helping children develop a lifelong, healthy response to loss.

In When Children Grieve, John W. James and Russell Friedman of the Grief Recovery Institute, along with psychotherapist Dr. Leslie Landon Matthews, have created a cutting-edge volume that will help free children from the false idea that they "shouldn't feel ...

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When Children Grieve: For Adults to Help Children Deal with Death, Divorce, Pet Loss, Moving, and Other Losses

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Overview

To watch a child grieve and not know what to do is one of the most difficult experiences for parents, teachers, and caregives. And yet, there are guidelines for helping children develop a lifelong, healthy response to loss.

In When Children Grieve, John W. James and Russell Friedman of the Grief Recovery Institute, along with psychotherapist Dr. Leslie Landon Matthews, have created a cutting-edge volume that will help free children from the false idea that they "shouldn't feel bad" and will empower them with positive, effective methods of dealing with loss.

There are many life experiences that can produce feelings of grief in a child, everything from the death of a relative or a divorce, to more everyday experiences such as moving to a new neighborhood or losing a prized possession. Whatever the reason or the degree of severity, if a child you love is grieving, the guidelines examined in this thoughtful book can make a difference.

No matter what the journey involves, seeing hope return to a child makes it all worthwhile. That is the greatest gift you can give to a child you love.

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What People Are Saying

Fred Rogers
Fred Rogers,Producer/Host Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Honorary Chairman of The Caring Place (a center for grieving children, adolescents, and their families)
There isn't anyone in life who hasn't experienced some kind of loss. It's comforting to know that we are not alone in our sadness and that practical, easy-to-read, thoughtful help is available by way of Russell Friedman, John James, and Leslie Landon Matthews gentle insights on the pages of When Children Grieve. Thank you, Neighbors, for your obvious care.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060196134
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/1/2001
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

John W. James and Russell Friedman have been working with grievers for more than thirty years. They have served as consultants to thousands of bereavement professionals and provide Grief Recovery® Seminars and Certification Programs throughout the United States and Canada. They are the founders of the Grief Recovery Institute®.

John W. James and Russell Friedman have been working with grievers for more than thirty years. They have served as consultants to thousands of bereavement professionals and provide Grief Recovery® Seminars and Certification Programs throughout the United States and Canada. They are the founders of the Grief Recovery Institute®.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



What's the Problem and Whose Problem Is It?



Because you are reading this book, there is a high probability that your child or a child in your care has experienced one or more losses. It is impossible to set down a list of losses that would have universal application to everyone reading this book. The following list represents the most common losses, in the sequence most likely to occur in a child's life.

Death of a pet

Death of a grandparent

Major move

Divorce of a child's parents

Death of a parent[s]

Death of a playmate, friend, or relative

Debilitating injury to the child or to someone important in the child's life



The fact that one or more of the losses listed has occurred is only part of the problem. The other part is that you may not know exactly what to do to help your child deal with his or her feelings about this loss.

What's the Problem?


Something has occurred that is negatively affecting your child. You may be aware of this because of the ways in which your child is behaving. Many of the normal and natural signs of grief are fairly obvious. Most of those signs would be the same for a child's reaction to a death, a divorce, or some other type of loss. But for now, we will use a child's response to news about a death. Often the immediate response to learning of a death is a sense of numbness. That numbness lasts a different amountof time for each child. What usually lasts longer, and is even more universal, is a reduced ability to concentrate.

Other common reactions include major changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Those patterns can alternate from one extreme to the other. Also typical is a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. As we mention these reactions, please notice that we are not labeling them as stages. They are simply some of the normal ways in which the body, the mind, and especially the emotions respond to the overwhelmingly painful information that something out of the ordinary has occurred. These reactions to a death are normal and typical even if there has been a long-term illness, which may have included substantial time and opportunity to "prepare" for that which will inevitably happen. We cannot prepare ourselves or our children, in advance, for the emotional reaction to a death.

This book (on behalf of your children) is about your child's reaction to death and other losses, and what you can do to help him or her. Because the topic of grief and potential recovery is so obscured by fear and misinformation, we are going to encourage you to examine the ideas you currently have about dealing with loss and to consider seriously whether those ideas are valuable for helping your child. We are going to presume that you are reading this book because you are eager to acquire the ideas and tools that will enable you to begin helping your child right away. So, let's get to work.

What is Grief, Anyway?


We have used the word grief several times in the opening pages of this book. Perhaps we should define the word for you, in the interest of clarity and mutual understanding. Many people associate the word grief only with physical death. We use a much broader definition that encompasses all loss experiences:

Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by a change or
an end in a familiar pattern of behavior.


As you'll recall, our list of losses included the death of a pet, death of a grandparent, moving, divorce of a child's parents, and death of a parent. Each of those losses represents a massive change or end from everything familiar. With death, the person or pet that has always been there is no longer there. With moving, the familiar place and surroundings are different. Divorce alters all of the routines in a child's life: it often includes changes in living situations and separation from extended family members and friends.

The losses we have listed carry with them the obvious emotional impact that we can all imagine would affect our children. But our definition of grief includes the idea that there are conflicting feelings. The concept of conflicting feelings requires a little bit of explanation. If you have ever had a loved one who struggled for a long time with a terminal illness, you may have had some feelings of relief when that person died. The relief usually stems from the idea that your loved one is no longer in pain. At the same time, your heart may have felt broken because he or she was no longer here. So the conflicting feelings are relief and sadness.

Moving also sets up conflicting feelings. We may miss some of the familiar things that we liked about the old house or neighborhood, and at the same time really like some of the things about the new place. Children are particularly affected by changes in locations, routines, and physical familiarity.

Obvious and Hidden Losses


Death, divorce, and even moving are obvious losses. Less apparent are losses having to do with health issues. A major change in the physical or mental health of a child or a parent can have dramatic impact on a child's life. And even though children are not usually directly involved with financial matters, they can be affected by major financial changes, positive or negative, within their family.

Society has identified more than forty life experiences that produce feelings of grief. At The Grief Recovery Institute we have expanded that list to include many of the loss experiences that are less concrete and thus are difficult to measure. Loss of trust, loss of safety, and loss of control are the most prominent of the intangible but life-altering experiences that affect children's lives...

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Put Your Oxygen Mask on First xii
Who Are We? And Why Have We Written This Book? xv
Part 1 Monkey See, Monkey do 1
Why Are You Reading This Book? 3
Chapter 1 What's the Problem and Whose Problem Is It? 5
What's the Problem? 6
What Is Grief, Anyway? 7
Obvious and Hidden Losses 8
Never Compare Losses 8
Time Doesn't Heal--Actions Do 9
Normal and Natural 10
Crisis Behavior 11
Between the Problem and the Solution: Six Major Myths 12
Chapter 2 Looking At Myth 1: Don't Feel Bad! 14
Sweet but Dangerous 15
Without Sadness, Joy Cannot Exist 16
We Are Not Exaggerating 16
Who's Responsible for Feelings? 21
Chapter 3 Looking at Myth 2: Replace the Loss, Part One 24
All Relationships are Unique 26
The Stolen Bicycle 27
Toys and Dolls--Gone but Not Forgotten 28
It's Time to Meet Leslie and Learn More about Cherished Possessions 29
Replace the Loss, Part Two 31
Chapter 4 Looking at Myth 3: Grieve Alone 33
Multigenerational Pass-Through 34
Grieve Alone--A Closer Look 36
Why Do People Grieve Alone? 38
Is Alone Ever Okay? 39
Here's Some Good News: Different Beliefs Produce Better Results For Children 39
Pause to Reflect and Recap 40
Chapter 5 Looking at Myth 4: Be Strong 42
Wait, There's More 43
Strong or Human, Pick One! 44
Chapter 6 Looking at Myth 5: Keep Busy 46
A Dangerous Illusion 47
The Real Impact of Loss: Keeping Busy and Dwelling on Pain 48
Dwelling on Pain Is Sometimes the Result of Not Being Heard 50
Heard at Last 51
Chapter 7 Looking at Myth 6: Time Heals All Wounds 54
Corporate Grief and Grief in the Classroom 55
No Time Zones 56
Part 2 Moving From Grief to Recovery 59
Chapter 8 Looking for "The Book" 61
John's Quest Continues 64
Chapter 9 What Is Incomplete Grief? 67
Is Incomplete Grief Only about Bad Things? 69
Chapter 10 Helping the Helpers 73
It's Easier to Fill an Empty Cup 73
Scuba Diving Lessons 74
The Critical Transition 75
Boundless Capacity 77
Delicate Strokes 78
If Your Kids Are Older, Do Not Despair 79
Do We Know Enough Yet? 79
Chapter 11 Short-Term Energy-Relieving Behaviors (S.T.E.R.B.s) 80
Do You Know Where Your Child's Energy Is? 82
Short-Term Relief Doesn't Work 84
Recapping Part Two 87
Part 3 The Path to Completion 89
What is Completion?
Chapter 12 The Relationship Review 91
Relationship Reviews Happen Automatically 91
Who Goes First? 92
Pick the Fruit When It's Ripe 93
Chapter 13 Real-Life Examples 96
Out of the Mouths of Babes--Good-bye, Mr. Hamster 96
All Grief Is Experienced at 100 percent 98
The Death of a Pet 98
Random Memories 102
Chapter 14 Helping Your Child Review the Relationship 103
Sleeping in the Bed, or Not 105
Minding the Steam Kettle 106
Chapter 15 The Emotional Energy Checklist 107
Children and Their Pets: Reviewing Events and Emotions 107
Emotional Energy Checklist: Death of a Pet 110
Chapter 16 What to Do with the Review 113
Converting Emotional Energy Into Recovery Components 113
Chapter 17 Recovery Components 116
Apologies First 116
Apologies to Living People 116
Apologies to People Who Have Died 119
Should Parents Ever Apologize? 119
Time Doesn't Create Completion: Actions Do 120
Chapter 18 Recovery Components: Forgiveness 121
Forgiveness Is an Action, Not a Feeling 123
Chapter 19 Recovery Components: Significant Emotional Statements 126
Are the Same Things Significant for Everyone? 127
Some Significant Comments Require Forgiveness 128
Fond Memories 128
Recapping This Section 129
Chapter 20 Death of a Person 132
Reviewing Relationships with People Who Have Died 133
The Death of a Grandparent 134
Uniqueness Is the Real Issue 135
"Less Than Loved Ones" 137
Complex Relationships 137
Emotional Energy Checklist: Grandparent, Relative, or Close Acquaintance 139
Recapping Part Three--Is It Soup Yet? 143
Before We Move On, We Honor the Readers 144
Part 4 Moving from Discovery to Completion 145
Chapter 21 Continuing Litany vs. Freedom
Carrying the Litany Is a Heavy Load 147
Exaggerated Memory Pictures 149
Freedom Feels Better 150
Chapter 22 Zeroing In on Completion 151
"Thumper" 151
Chapter 23 Delivering, Completing, and Saying Good-bye 160
Leading Up to Jessica's Letter 161
Jessica's Completion Letter to Thumper 163
Entirely Different but Exactly the Same 176
Chapter 24 Very Close to NaNa 169
Emotional Energy List--Grandparent, Relative, or Close Acquaintance 176
Chronicling Events that Occur After a Death 179
Amanda's Completion Letter to NaNa 181
Chapter 25 One More Letter 183
Jeffrey's Letter 184
New Discoveries 185
What About Jeffrey's Sisters? 186
Concluding Part Four 187
Part 5 Other Losses 189
Focusing on Moving and Divorce 189
Chapter 26 The First Big Move 191
Transitional Events 193
Chapter 27 What Not to Do 194
Moving 197
Chapter 28 On Divorce 199
Leslie Gets the First Word--The Divorce of My Parents 199
Chapter 29 Bad New--Bad News 202
Long Term or Sudden Impact 202
Whose Divorce Is It? 203
Multiple Losses 204
Sometimes We Get Lucky 206
Don't Fix Feelings 207
Don't Be Fooled--Relief Is Only the Last Feeling 208
Noble Sentiments, but Hearts Are Still Broken 209
One Central Issue 201
Unique Is Still the Bottom Line 211
Where Is the Focus? 212
Taking Sides 213
Children Sometimes Blame Themselves 214
What Can You Do to Help? 214
Leslie Gets the Last Word, Too 215
Part 6 Closing up Shop 219
Chapter 30 The "D" Word 221
Illusion of Protection 222
Solid and Clear Reference Point 222
Sometimes the World Travels Backward 223
Talking About Death with Your Child 224
Curiosity Helps Children Learn 226
Chapter 31 Euphemisms + Metaphors = Confusion 230
Chapter 32 Four Weddings and a Funeral? 234
Forty-five Years Later, but Who's Counting 237
Chapter 33 Win-Win 240
Chloe and Carrie Sue and the Real Meaning of Time 240
Three Generations 242
Spencer's Accidental Owners 244
Tuning In to Elizabeth 247
The Grief Recovery Groupie 249
Our Completion with You 252
Questionnaire 254
Acknowledgments 261
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2013

    Helped

    This book will helif you do the work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2001

    The most refreshing and useful book available for helping children adjust to life's inevitable changes.

    As a Mental Health Professional and specialist in the field of grief, I was asked to review the final manuscript of 'When Children Grieve.' In all honesty I could not put it down. It is easy to read, warm, truthful,and above all practical. Finally a book that tells you exactly what to do and why. I had the opportunity to use the information in 'When Children Grieve' with a group of boys ages 12-16 who were labeled 'behavioral/emotional' problems within the public school system. The results were incredible. It certainly reinforced the 'truths' of this book. If we taught our children these principles we would not have all the 'Columbine's' and 'Post Office' traumas that are frequently on the evening news. As a mother, I only wish I had this book when my children were young. I believe 'When Children Grieve' should be in the hands of EVERY person who encounters children both professionally and socially.

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