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Understanding and Supporting Bereaved Children

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Understanding and Supporting Bereaved Children

SKU# 9780826140487

A Practical Guide for Professionals

Author: Andy McNiel M.A., Pamela Gabbay EdD, FT

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This welcome addition to the field of childhood bereavement provides a clearly organized overview of innovative and practical interventions for human service professionals helping bereaved children and their families in a variety of settings. Written by noted experts with over 40 years of combined experience, this comprehensive, “how to” book provides a framework for understanding how grief resulting from a death impacts the lives of children, and includes models, techniques, and interventions for individual, family, and group counseling.

Based on best practices and the authors’ experience working with grieving families, this book describes how children are affected by the death of someone close to them, and provides a framework for addressing the needs of these children and their families and caregivers. The authors’ approach is straightforward and compassionate, and examples of children’s artwork reinforce the concepts discussed. Specific approaches are provided for individual and group support, including practical ways to create meaningful spaces for young people to find help, encouragement, and healing. In addition, the book offers a chapter on professional accountability, ethical concerns, and educational recommendations and training. Professionals who work with bereaved children daily, as well as those who only occasionally encounter them in their practice, will benefit from this book.

Key Features:

  • Brimming with innovative, practical approaches for supporting bereaved children and teens, including “How to Help” sections and suggested activities to use with this population
  • Provides individual, family, and group counseling models, techniques, and interventions
  • Outlines effective strategies for working with bereaved youth that can be used in a variety of settings, including mental health, health care, schools, and faith communities
  • Offers a useful framework for understanding how grief impacts the lives of children
  • Provides visual and emotional dimensions to concepts through artwork created by bereaved children of different ages
  • Includes a chapter devoted to professional and ethical considerations

Product Details 

  • Publication Date July 11, 2017
  • Page Count 192
  • Product Form Paperback / softback
  • ISBN 13 9780826140487
  • EISBN 9780826140494

About The Author(s) 

Andy McNiel, MA, is a co-owner of Satori Management and Consulting, LLC, providing education and consultation to the death, end-of-life, and bereavement fields. Andy serves the childhood bereavement field as a national fund-raiser, thought leader, and ambassador for issues related to childhood bereavement support, traveling extensively throughout the United States. Andy has served as a nonprofit manager and leader throughout his career, and has provided support and counseling to bereaved children, teenagers, and adults in a variety of support settings. He has served as chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Grieving Children, executive director of The Amelia Center in Birmingham, Alabama, and director of grief support services for Treasure Coast Hospice in Stuart, Florida. He is a national trainer for Boys and Girls Clubs of America and a member of the facilitator training corps of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He is a nationally recognized presenter and trainer, using a balance of humor, teaching, and facilitating on a variety of topics related to strategic planning, nonprofit leadership, childhood bereavement support, adult bereavement issues, and group facilitation. He holds a BA in religion from Palm Beach Atlantic University and an MA in counseling from The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Pamela Gabbay, EdD, FT, is a co-owner of Satori Management and Consulting, LLC, providing education and consultation to the death, end-of-life, and bereavement fields. Dr. Gabbay is an adjunct faculty member at Brandman University in California and is a member of the training corps for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Formerly, Dr. Gabbay was the director of the Mourning Star Center for Grieving Children. She created and served as camp director for Camp Erin, Palm Springs, a bereavement camp for children. She served two terms on the board of directors of the National Alliance for Grieving Children (NAGC). Dr. Gabbay served as the president of the Southern California Chapter of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Each year, Dr. Gabbay presents at multiple national conferences. She has presented at the annual conferences for the NAGC, the Association for Death Education and Counseling, the MISS Foundation, the American Association of Suicidology, Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, and the Childhood Grief and Traumatic Loss Conference. Dr. Gabbay holds a Fellow in Thanatology certification from the Association for Death Education and Counseling and earned a master of arts degree in cognitive psychology from Claremont Graduate University. She earned a doctor of education degree in organizational leadership from Brandman University.

Table of Contents 


Foreword by Donna Schuurman



1. Understanding Childhood Grief and the Bereavement Support Professional’s Role

Developmental Framework for Understanding Grief

Five Universal Realities of Grief

Universal Reality One: Grief Is Personal

Universal Reality Two: Grief Is Transitional

Universal Reality Three: Grief Is Both Seen and Unseen

Universal Reality Four: Grief Is a Shared Experience

Universal Reality Five: Grief Is Integral

Special Considerations for Trauma

The Role of the Bereavement Support Professional



2. Impact of Grief on Children

Common Grief Reactions in Children

Emotional Reactions

Physical Reactions

Mental Reactions

Spiritual Reactions

Factors That Influence Childhood Grief

Preexisting Relationship With the Deceased


Social Interactions and Relationships

Personality and Preferences

Relationship With The Parent or Caregiver

Past Experiences of Loss

Secondary Losses


Family Dynamics

Age and Maturity Level

viiiWhat Bereaved Children Want Adults to Know

Their Grief Is Long Lasting

They Cope With Their Grief Through Play

They Will Always Miss the Person Who Died

Sometimes They Want to Talk and Sometimes They Do Not

Sometimes “Acting Out” Is How They Express Intense Emotions of Grief

They Often Feel Guilty

If You Don’t Know What They Need From You, Just Ask

What Bereaved Children Need







3. Suicide, Homicide, Sudden Death, and Illness

Death by Suicide

Reactions and Surrounding Circumstances

Death by Homicide

Reactions and Surrounding Circumstances

Sudden Death

Reactions and Surrounding Circumstances

Death From Illness

Important Considerations Leading Up to a Death Resulting From Illness

Reactions and Circumstances Surrounding a Death Caused by Illness

Share the Truth and Encourage Families to Do the Same

Model Accurate Language

Provide Information About Handling Stress

Be Patient With Children and Their Families

Provide Space for Children to Talk About the Death and Meet Them Where They Are

Know Community Resources and Appropriate Referrals



4. Death of a Parent

A Child’s Concept of a Parent

The Death of a Parent

ixStrengths of the Parent–Child Relationship Impacted by Grief

Social Cues and Problem Solving

Security and Predictability

Moral Support and Encouragement

Child’s Relationship With the Surviving Parent

Parent–Child Adaptive Tasks



5. Death of Other Family Members

The Death of a Sibling

The Strength of the Sibling Relationship

Other Factors That Impact Sibling Relationships

Impact of the Death of a Sibling and How to Help Children

Family Adaptation After the Death of a Sibling

Death of a Grandparent

The Strength of the Grandparent–Grandchild Relationship

Circumstances That Impact a Child’s Grief Over the Death of a Grandparent

Death of Other Family Members



6. Factors That Promote Health in Grieving Children

A Positive Parent–Child Relationship

Fundamentals of a Positive Parent–Child Relationship

Expression and Validation of Grief

A Child’s Sense of Control

Positive Self-Esteem

Healthy Coping Skills



7. Modes of Helping

Fostering Meaning-Making

Encouraging Continuing Bonds

Adjusting to the Loss of Relationship

Redefining the Relationship

Continuing the Relationship

Honoring the Legacy of the Relationship

xPromoting Problem Solving

Step One: Evaluating Options for Action

Step Two: Choosing an Action

Step Three: Taking Action

Facilitating Perspective Building

The Strength of Rituals



8. Grief Support Settings for Bereaved Children

Creating a Safe Space for Support

Dimensions of Safe Space

Types of Support Settings for Bereaved Children

Individual Support

Peer Support Groups

Grief Camps

Grief Support in Schools



9. Activities That Engage Children

Considerations for Selecting Activities for Children

The Age or Maturity Level of Children

Time Needed to Complete the Activity

The Feasibility of the Activity

Activities That Facilitate Meaning-Making

Sample Art and Writing Activity for Meaning-Making

Sample Sand-Tray Activity for Meaning-Making

Sample Photography Activity for Meaning-Making

Sample Canvas-Painting Activity for Meaning-Making

Activities That Facilitate Continuing Bonds

Sample Writing Activity for Continuing Bonds

Sample Music Activity for Continuing Bonds

Sample Sharing Activity for Continuing Bonds

Sample Writing Activity for Continuing Bonds

Activities That Facilitate Problem Solving

Sample Writing Activity for Problem Solving

Sample Art and Writing Activity for Problem Solving

Sample Sharing Activity for Problem Solving

Sample Writing Activity for Problem Solving

Activities That Facilitate Perspective Building

Sample Art and Writing Activity for Perspective Building

xixiiSample Art and Writing Activity for Perspective Building

Sample Art Activity for Perspective Building

Sample Writing Activity for Perspective Building


10. Professional Accountability and Ethical Considerations

Standards of Practice

Education and Training

Informed Consent and Description of Services

Mission, Vision, Values

Program Delivery


Staff Supervision and Care

Volunteer Supervision and Care


Language and Labeling





Editorial Review(s) 


"This book is exactly what the authors intended it to be: a practical guide for professionals who work with bereaved children. Andy McNiel and Dr. Pamela Gabbay have written a comprehensive text that clearly demonstrates their many years of knowledge and experience working in the bereavement field. The authors have put together a book filled with solid information relevant to current practice in the field of Thanatology as well as excellent examples that link scholarly information to practical use. They also provide many wonderful activities in the book which can be used by professionals who work with bereaved children. As a professor at a Monmouth University teaching a course in grief counseling, my students use this as their required text for the course. They have given very positive feedback on this book and appreciate the clear, concise way in which the information is portrayed. This book is a must for professionals wanting to know more about how to work with bereaved children."


-- Lynn M. Snyder, LPC, ATR-BC, FT


"Understanding and Supporting Bereaved Children: A Practical Guide for Professionals by Andy McNiel and Pamela Gabbay is now required reading for my graduate student intern cohort here in Boston. I find it so useful and clear. It serves as a great introduction to those new to the field, and as a helpful affirmation to those of us who have been doing the work for a while!"


-- Jennifer Wiles, MA, LMHC, BC-DMT