Book Review: 'The Grieving Child' by Helen Fitzgerald

When a doctor informed Helen Fitzgerald that her husband was dying from cancer, he discouraged her sharing the diagnosis with the patient. This also meant not telling her four children – the prevailing wisdom of the time was that children should not be exposed to sad or disturbing news. Her children nevertheless sensed something was wrong, causing tensions within the family, and when she belatedly shared the news it came as a relief and helped restore a sense of familial closeness.

Her husband’s death and the events surrounding it propelled Helen Fitzgerald to what would become her life’s work – educating others and giving them the tools they need to deal with the grieving process. She soon discovered that there were few resources available to parents whose children were experiencing loss, and after a decade of working with children both individually and in groups (at the time she started, it was assumed children lacked the sophistication to participate in therapeutic group settings), Fitzgerald published what she’d learned in The Grieving Child.

The latest edition of the book offers advice for helping children of all ages, from grieving toddlers to strategies for resolving childhood grief as an adult. It’s not a book readers must necessarily read cover-to-cover, but instead provides an easy-to-navigate format that allows quick access to specific topics. Chapters cover subjects like explaining suicide to a child, whether children should attend funerals and dealing with children’s reactions to a parent’s dating and remarriage. Also included is a bibliography with categorized recommendations for further reading, as well as a list of helpful Web resources.

Written in a clear, concise style free from academic jargon or fuzzy therapy speak, Fitzgerald’s book should be a helpful guide for any parent trying to help their children face one of the most difficult challenges life can offer.

Purchase The Grieving Child: A Parent's Guide

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