Grief, Loss, Death & Dying

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The Forgotten MournersReview - The Forgotten Mourners
Guidelines for Working With Bereaved Children
by Susan C. Smith
Jessica Kingsley, 1999
Review by Margo McPhillips
Feb 8th 2001 (Volume 5, Issue 6)

Children have different needs from adults. As obvious as that statement seems, it has only been in recent decades that attention has been given to children as children and not as "little adults." As in life, children's experiences dealing with the death of another close to them need to be addressed, and addressed uniquely according to their developmental stage and individual concerns. It is this often-overlooked area of children's experience that this book addresses.

My mother died when I was three. I am fifty now and in therapy largely because of issues surrounding her death and my father and stepmother's lack of awareness of my problems and special needs while I was growing up. However, this book appears to be written more as a textbook for teachers, social workers or students, rather than for loving parents. As correct and well thought out and elucidated as it is, there isn't any attempt at "heart." From the ages of two to five, I was primarily cared for by illiterate maids. I think the maids better served me than I would have been by someone who had read this book and was trying to help me. This book speaks of "the child" and has no examples. I get the idea that it should be read by helpers whose primary area of expertise is something other than working with bereaved children, to reassure the helper that they can cope should a bereaved child suddenly be thrust upon them.

The book is accurate and informative but doesn't allow that information is not usually the primary way to go when dealing with grief. The book cover speaks of "…ways to tackle the subject of death" as if death were an unnatural monster or adversary. I would feel more hopeful of a helper who had read Children Changed by Trauma: a healing guide by Debra Whiting Alexander, (reviewed in Metapsychology November 2000), or a book that addressed sadness or depression in children than one who chose this book. This book is too dry and technical to be useful for really helping a child. I think it is focused toward helping the workers who might be overwhelmed by a child's expression of their bereavement or for those who wish to know the basic pattern of what can happen in a child's life as the result of bereavement.


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