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Featured this Month:

A Resource for Rebuilding your Family after the Death of a Loved One, Book Review
Tuesday, November 28, 2017 by Cynthia Waderlow MSE, LCSW
After the death of a spouse or a child a family is consumed by the steps necessary to find stability. Sometimes, when a bereaved parent reviews the past, they will see that there has not been a sense of family stability for a long time. Suicide is sometimes preceded with a history of mental health crises and behavioral reactions that disrupt family life. On the other hand, even when a suicide occurs “out of the blue” and family life had felt grounded in the meeting of needs, a cascade of long lasting reconstruction tasks facing surviving parents can be overwhelming. Life feels upended.

Phyllis R. Silverman and Madelyn Kelly wrote A Parent’s Guide to Raising Grieving Children; Rebuilding your Family after the Death of a Loved One. Although this book draws from general bereavement it is clearly focused on families with children who must renegotiate a lost way of life. This includes internal changes such as shifts in authority and family structure, understanding your own and your children’s grief needs and responses, finding a way to cope with intense emotions and parent at the same time, finding help and support and creating a new outlook for yourself and your family. External challenges may involve coping with stigma and bullying, knowing when someone’s help is not helpful, seeking solutions for financial and legal issues, finding support resources such as bereavement groups and counseling and of course, a sensitive chapter on dating and remarriage.

The authors keep a perspective on time, a concept intensified by grief, as grieving parents and young people try to integrate the challenges of present with past and future. They show families within the process of maintaining connecting bonds with the deceased loved one while nurturing plans and visions for the future. They illustrate challenges over time, the escalation in children’s and teens development that can temporarily outgrow grief, only to return to an investigative process to better understand themselves through knowledge of the lost loved one.

You are likely to see yourself in this book. It is compassionate and observant of differences: You are not a bad parent just because your teenager does not want to talk to you about grief. It is nuanced: Your child might feel okay if you date, but not if you remarry. The authors recognize irreplaceable loss, but also the gifts and wisdom that may accompany the uneven, arduous process of rebuilding.

Silverman and Kelly have spent years examining many families over several years as they rebuild after life changing loss. They know that recognizing mistakes has value and addressing them can lend poignant intimacy to a family in recovery. The authors suggest that openness and honesty about what is happening is key to helping children achieve an ability to make sense of their own experience. The tone is common sense, sympathetic and supportive. The focus is comprehensive, from decisions about a funeral to personal growth to regulating the moods of a grieving teenager to continuing a relationship with the person who died.

I recommend this guidebook by Silverman and Kelly as a resource for grieving parents navigating a path to coping and better days. The community of families grieving an intimate loss is immense and universal. Although they may feel alone, they are not alone. A friend recently acknowledged to me that rebuilding after loss is hard and joyless. Perhaps we don’t recognize goals and achievement with the same satisfaction when our hearts are broken, or when there is no vision in place for the new life. But we need each other’s perspectives and experiences as guideposts to do the work if we intend to survive. Taking care of our children is an essential motivator.



Archives:

A Resource for Rebuilding your Family after the Death of a Loved One, Book Review
Tuesday, November 28, 2017 by Cynthia Waderlow MSE, LCSW
After the death of a spouse or a child a family is consumed by the steps necessary to find stability. Sometimes, when a bereaved parent reviews the past, they will see that there has not been a sense of family stability for a long time. Suicide is sometimes preceded with a history of mental health crises and behavioral reactions that disrupt family life. On the other hand, even when a suicide occurs “out of the blue” and family life had felt grounded in the meeting of needs, a cascade of long lasting reconstruction tasks facing surviving parents can be overwhelming. Life feels upended.

Phyllis R. Silverman and Madelyn Kelly wrote A Parent’s Guide to Raising Grieving Children; Rebuilding your Family after the Death of a Loved One. Although this book draws from general bereavement it is clearly focused on families with children who must renegotiate a lost way of life. This includes internal changes such as shifts in authority and family structure, understanding your own and your children’s grief needs and responses, finding a way to cope with intense emotions and parent at the same time, finding help and support and creating a new outlook for yourself and your family. External challenges may involve coping with stigma and bullying, knowing when someone’s help is not helpful, seeking solutions for financial and legal issues, finding support resources such as bereavement groups and counseling and of course, a sensitive chapter on dating and remarriage.

The authors keep a perspective on time, a concept intensified by grief, as grieving parents and young people try to integrate the challenges of present with past and future. They show families within the process of maintaining connecting bonds with the deceased loved one while nurturing plans and visions for the future. They illustrate challenges over time, the escalation in children’s and teens development that can temporarily outgrow grief, only to return to an investigative process to better understand themselves through knowledge of the lost loved one.

You are likely to see yourself in this book. It is compassionate and observant of differences: You are not a bad parent just because your teenager does not want to talk to you about grief. It is nuanced: Your child might feel okay if you date, but not if you remarry. The authors recognize irreplaceable loss, but also the gifts and wisdom that may accompany the uneven, arduous process of rebuilding.

Silverman and Kelly have spent years examining many families over several years as they rebuild after life changing loss. They know that recognizing mistakes has value and addressing them can lend poignant intimacy to a family in recovery. The authors suggest that openness and honesty about what is happening is key to helping children achieve an ability to make sense of their own experience. The tone is common sense, sympathetic and supportive. The focus is comprehensive, from decisions about a funeral to personal growth to regulating the moods of a grieving teenager to continuing a relationship with the person who died.

I recommend this guidebook by Silverman and Kelly as a resource for grieving parents navigating a path to coping and better days. The community of families grieving an intimate loss is immense and universal. Although they may feel alone, they are not alone. A friend recently acknowledged to me that rebuilding after loss is hard and joyless. Perhaps we don’t recognize goals and achievement with the same satisfaction when our hearts are broken, or when there is no vision in place for the new life. But we need each other’s perspectives and experiences as guideposts to do the work if we intend to survive. Taking care of our children is an essential motivator.