From winter 2005 - Children and bereavement (Book Review)
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Wendy Duffy, previously a hospice nurse, is now a bereavement counsellor. She is also a pastoral assistant in her local parish church and writes from many years' experience of supporting children and families through the bereavement process. Her short book is easily readable and is targeted at parents, teachers, clergy and others involved with helping children or teenagers come to terms with a death.
The book is a mixture of information and stories from her experience. It includes sections on suicide, sudden death and the role of the school in helping to support a community of children after a tragic event such as 9/11, or an individual child after a personal loss. That many young teachers may not have suffered any form of bereavement themselves and may struggle with their own reactions was a point well made. There is also a useful chapter on resource organisations and appropriate books for children, teenagers and adults who help them.
The chapter on children's perception of death at different ages is very brief. I felt that it lacked a clear explanation of the difference between the concrete thinking of children under seven years of age, and older ones who are developing an ability to grasp more abstract ideas. Tailoring explanations to children's age and understanding of the world is crucial to minimise confusion. The quotes from the children themselves would have had more power if the interpretations had been expanded.
Many of us will come into contact with bereaved children either professionally or in our personal circles. Indeed, we may be asked to be involved in explanations or support for children of friends or of church families because of our medical training, and we may feel inadequate for the task. For my own purposes the book was too brief but it could be useful for a local church leader or a teacher. For more detailed coverage of how children think and react to death, dying and bereavement, I would recommend a book by a past President of CMF and retired consultant paediatrician, Janet Goodall: Children and Grieving, Scripture Union 1995. This book has helped me immensely over the years.
Article written by Liz Walker