Thursday, August 20, 2015

Book Review: Parenting a Grieving Child

Please note: A new revised edition of Parenting a Grieving Child has just been released. This review is of the 2002 edition.

Parenting a Grieving Child was recommended to me by Heidi Hess Saxton as a reference for helping children who are in foster care or have been adopted. All of these children are grieving to one degree or another. This book by Mary DeTurris Proust does not deal directly with that sort of grief, but it should be required reading for all parents because at one time or another, all children grieve, and how we help them to cope with that grief is very important.

The loss may seem relatively small, like that of a goldfish, or huge such as losing a parent or sibling, but every child grieves every loss "on his or her terms." Just as for adults, there is no one right way to grieve, and what seems like a small loss to us may be extremely important to a child. We must guide them through the process.

Proust offers suggestions on talking about death and emphasizes the importance of telling children the truth about what has happened in an age-appropriate manner. She also provides a list of symptoms and behaviors that grieving children may exhibit, and red flags that professional help is needed.

Faith is an important component of this book. "We cannot separate our faith from our grief and mourning." What we believe about God and the afterlife will have a huge impact on how we and our children grieve. We need to offer spiritual support to our children, especially as they question how God could allow such pain and tragedy. "Faith offers a kind of support that cannot be found anywhere else."

Parenting a Grieving Child is a very valuable resource, perhaps best read when one is not in the midst of grieving, but rather as preparation for the inevitable. In addition to parents, it would be helpful for educators and those who work with children in a pastoral capacity.

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