To watch a child grieve and not know what to do is one of the most difficult experiences for parents, teachers, and caregivers. 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. For example:Listen with your heart, not your head. Allow all emotions to be expressed, without judgment, criticism, or analysis.Recognize that grief is emotional, not intellectual. Avoid the trap of asking your child what is wrong, for he or she will automatically say "Nothing."Adults -- Go first. Telling the truth about your own grief will make your child feel safe in opening up about his or her own feelings.Remember that each of your children is unique and each has a unique relationship to the loss event.Be patient. Don't force your child to talk.Never say "Don't feel sad" or "Don't feel scared." Sadness and fear, the two most common feelings attached to loss of any kind, are essential to being human.
It's unfortunate that the book has what might be considered a common structural flaw in self-help books. All of Part I (about 50 pages) is devoted to examining various myths about grieving and mistakes in dealing with it--for example, that the griever should keep busy and try not to feel bad. This is "good advice about bad advice," but it leaves the reader wondering why the authors didn't choose to get on with the plain old "good advice" on page 1. By Part II, it's already clear which coping techniques the authors will recommend. It would have been better to start there. --Richard Farr