Monday, April 12, 2010

A Child’s Grief: Surviving the Death of a Parent

Judy Strong
Beaver's Pond Press (2010)
ISBN 9781592983087
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views (03/10)

As a psychologist I have read many books on grief and children. What I like best about "A Child's Grief"  was it was honest, full of passion and advice. Judy Strong didn't criticize but gave her own personal experience of her husband dying suddenly and the experiences of her children.


In each chapter she gives reasons why we don't look at children and their thoughts, even adult children. Strong offers sound advice on what we, as families, can do to recognize children's experiences. This not only applies to a death of the parent, but parents who are deployed, or loss of relationships, pets and friendships.


The author states "Young children respond to role models in front of them."  This is all children have regardless of their age.  Sometimes as adults we think that our kids don't have the opportunity to say goodbye due to hospital rules or families not letting them attend funerals. We don't discuss truthfully what happened but say things in general "Dad has gone to heaven, God needed him there." We are doing a disservice to our kids - they have many questions about what happened and why.  I remember this week my granddaughter asked about the killer whale and the lady who was killed. She saw the videos on TV and was very distraught. We talked about death, why it might have happened and what she thought should be done. I was very amazed at her insight at the age of five.

In recent months, my dad died unexpectedly. We talked about it some but only from the doctor's point of view; my family doesn't talk about it. As Ms. Strong states "death is largely ignored. We don't plan ahead, ask wishes and just go on."  This has a great impact on children. It creates fear that another person in our lives will leave; it's a feeling of abandonment for kids of all ages.  If anything is left undone, those kids, even as adults, will feel loss and won't be able to handle what they didn't get to do. All readers need to learn to say goodbye and learn about death. All of us need to know what happened in our own level of understanding.


Many children are then left to be the "adult" and have no idea what that means. It is a big responsibility, in addition to possibly moving, dealing with financial issues and the lack of  communication with those around them.


In each chapter Strong gives psychological issues that might occur as well as tips on what to do to help children of all ages. I found her straightforward, passionate thoughts to be inspiring to all families.


Strong's honesty, without saying what readers might have done wrong, was excellent.  I appreciated the stories she shared from people who had written her expressing their feelings. In the back of the book she gave numerous resources to help families. We all will deal with death at some time in our lives.  How will we handle it?  Why don't we talk about death in general?  How should we handle hospital visitations?  What are our plans for burial?  What do we do in the case of sudden death?


As a psychologist and online Psychology Instructor, this is a topic that I will address with my students and will recommend this book to all of them. This is a short, fast read that is easy to understand. Mark what you read and then discuss it with your family. None of us want to see a loved one pass, but it happens every day and we need to prepare for it. Author Judy Strong has done a very remarkable job in "A Child's Grief: Surviving the Death of a Parent."

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