How do you help a child who’s grieving? Therapist and expert Linda Goldman discusses this issue with Dr. Heidi Horsley at the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference. Goldman works with schools around the country, helping them to help their students. The best thing schools can do is realize that this loss is something that will last for a long time—perhaps forever. School systems have to be accountable for the grieving child, much like schools are accountable for students with learning disabilities. Unfortunately, schools often think children will “get over it,” which isn’t the case.

Grieving children need interventions, recommendations, and caring, which can be in short supply, especially after the initial grieving period. Her book, Life and Loss, features a child loss inventory for schools that outlines exactly what schools need in order to provide the best care for children in grief. Schools need to document the following: This is a grieving child, the when, how, where and why. Schools need to be able to track a child throughout K-12 and know that this is a grieving child.

Schooled in Grief

Goldman gives an example of a child, Max, who’s getting ready to play in his last basketball game of the season. When his coach asked where his dad was, Max says he had to work, but the reality is his dad died a year ago. The school had failed to communicate that this was a grieving child to all parties. Schools need to speak to parents and build a grief community team.

Finally, common behavioral characteristics (impulsivity, concentration issues, etc.) are present but are too often used as a checklist to track disorders. Remember that a lot of symptoms are actually common reactions to loss.

Linda Goldman

Linda Goldman has a Fellow in Thanatology: Death, Dying, and Bereavement (FT) with a Master of Science in counseling and Master's equivalency in early childhood education. Linda is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a National Certified Counselor. She worked as a teacher and counselor in the school system for almost 20 years. Currently, she has a private grief therapy practice in Chevy Chase, Maryland. She works with children, teenagers, families with prenatal loss and grieving adults. Linda shares workshops, courses and trainings on children's grief and trauma and teaches as adjunct faculty in the Graduate Program of Counseling at Johns Hopkins University and King’s University College in Ontario, Canada. She has also taught on the faculty at the University of Maryland School of Social Work/Advanced Certification Program for Children and Adolescents and lectured at many other universities including Pennsylvania State University, Buffalo School of Social Work, University of North Carolina, the National Transportation Safety Board, the University of Hong Kong, and the National Changhua University of Education in Taiwan as well as numerous schools systems throughout the country. She has taught on working with LGBT youth and working with children's grief and trauma at Johns Hopkins Graduate School, the University of Maryland School of Social Work and the Child Welfare Administration. Linda is the author of “Life and Loss: A Guide to Help Grieving Children” and “Breaking the Silence: a Guide to Help Children with Complicated Grief”. Her other books include “Bart Speaks Out: An Interactive Storybook for Young Children On Suicide”, “Helping the Grieving Child in the School”, and a Chinese Edition of “Breaking the Silence: A Guide to Help Children With Complicated Grief”, the Japanese Edition of “Life and Loss: A Guide to Help Grieving Children”, and "Raising Our Children to Be Resilient: A Guide for Helping Children Cope with Trauma in Today’s World" and a children’s book “Children Also Grieve”, Chinese translation of “Children Also Grieve” and “Coming Out, Coming In: Nurturing the Well Being and Inclusion of Gay Youth in Mainstream Society”. She has also authored contributing chapters in resources including Loss of the Assumptive World (2002), Annual Death, Dying, and Bereavement (2001-2007), Family Counseling and Therapy Techniques (1998), and The School Services Sourcebook: A Guide for School-Based Professionals (2006). She has written many articles, including Healing Magazine’s “Helping the Grieving Child in the Schools” (2012), “The Bullying Epidemic, Creating Safe Havens for Gay Youth in Schools” (2006), “Parenting Gay Youth” (2008), “Talking to Kids About Suicide” (2014), “Helping Kids Cope with Grief of Losing a Pet” (2014) and “What Complicates Grief for Children: A Case Study” (2015). Some of her articles on Children's Grief and trauma have been translated into Chinese for the Suicide Prevention Program of Beijing. She appeared on the radio show Helping Gay Youth: Parents Perspective (2008) and has testified at a hearing before the MD Joint House and Senate Priorities Hearing for Marriage Equality (2007) and the MD Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee for the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act (2008).

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