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Engaging the Power of Communal Coping - Grief Group Counseling with K-12 Students

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Elizabeth Rodden

on 14 November 2014

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Transcript of Engaging the Power of Communal Coping - Grief Group Counseling with K-12 Students

Engaging the Power
of Communal Coping -
Grief Group Counseling
with K-12 Students

This workshop will tackle the complicated emotions and social outcomes experienced by students affected by grief and loss and how these feelings can be more effectively processed and normalized in a group support atmosphere. Developmentally-appropriate bereavement education and proven group procedures and activities will also be discussed.
Suppression leads to momentary relief and permanent pain.
Feeling leads to momentary pain and permanent relief.

~ Chinese Proverb
Bereaved people are like ducks:

Above the surface…looking composed and unruffled.
Below the surface…Paddling like Crazy!
Finding an Interpersonal Connection with
Grief & Loss
Society's View on Grief & Loss
“Get over it” attitude, “That’s just life”
Must have “closure”
Adhering to the 5 stages of grief (everyone grieves the same in the same amount of time)
Unresolved grief always takes a toll
Young people should be protected from pain
Vague language when speaking about death
"Just stay busy"
Don’t cry
Stay in control

Developmental Aspects of Bereavement

Developed from Barrharris.org - a program of the Chicago Institute of Psychoanalysis
Infants & Toddlers
Notice changes in parents’ energy level & emotional state
Older infants & toddlers notice when one parent is no longer present in the home
More irritability (crying & fussing)
Changes in sleeping, napping, & other daily routines
Older infants nervous & fearful if a new adult moves into home (may have difficulty separating from caretakers)
Regression (can occur at all developmental stages)
Older toddlers may have nightmares

Children 5-11
Increased understanding about death
May engage in greater self-blame for the loss
More likely to understand loss through a concrete thought process
Psychosomatic symptoms
May have increased nightmares
Heightened level of school phobias
Anger & sadness for what has happened
Shifts between talking about the loss & acting as if nothing happened
May avoid talking about the loss

Preteens & Adolescents
Developmental process of separation from parents is accelerated
Have a full understanding of death
Often express more anger & aggression
May engage in “social causes” in mourning process (volunteering, etc.)
May become caretaker of younger siblings
May become sexually active prematurely
May seek a more exclusive relationship at an earlier age or may have difficulties forming an intimate relationship

Other Circumstances that Make for
Unique Grieving Experiences
Who died
How they died
How the last interaction with that person went (& the emotions that accompany this memory)
Cultural background of student
Spiritual background of student
Gender of student
Strength & connection of familial support system

Elizabeth S. Rodden, LPC, NCC
Licensed Professional Counselor
National Certified Counselor

Kate O’Connor, LCSW
School Social Worker at Northwood Middle School
Woodstock, IL
Besides the obvious, how do you know when a student is having difficulty grieving?
Academic difficulties (bad grades & behavior)
Altered family relationship – have to step up
Altered friendships
Having moved from home
Parent has moved on to a new partner
Risky behavior/unhealthy coping skills
Somaticizing behavior

The Power of the
Group Effect

Facilitates healing so student can function more effectively in life (classroom, home, etc.)
Introduces group members to others who have already experienced death and learned from the process
Shifts focus from individual to group healing
Psychoeducational & Experiential in nature
A time, a place, and PERMISSION to grieve
Normalizes feelings and behaviors (make sense of senseless events)
Multi-faceted support for grief

Countertransference & Grief Counseling
Grief is universal
Practice what we preach – importance of our own mental health
"The more grief that therapists had about missing a loved one who had died, the less empathic clients perceived them to be...the more that therapists had resolved their grief about missing a loved one, the more empathic clients perceived them to be." (Hayes, Jy Yeh, & Eisenberg, 2007)
The Wounded Healer

Working with Grieving Teens
What to Know
Often have longer grieving periods and difficulty moving forward
Simultaneously struggling to accomplish developmental tasks and attempting to accept the death of a loved one
If they are struggling, their parents probably are too
What to Expect
Under a lot of pressure
Most are not getting the support they need from adults
Expected to be strong and give support to others
How to Advocate
Provide a safe, confidential space
Be knowledgeable of the effects of prolonged grief
Serve as a positive role model

Find your audience
Attempt to find a common theme
Losing a parent is very different than losing a grandparent or sibling
Attempt to limit to immediate
Getting a Group Started
family members if not
enough students for one
particular theme (parent,
sibling, etc.)
Recruit a co-facilitator
Establish connections & trust
If possible, no set # of sessions
Major Themes to Cover
Sharing the Event
Stages of Grief
Memory Building
Family Changes
Holidays, Anniversaries, & Rituals
Feelings of Grief
Coping Tools
Goodbyes/Closures & Memorials
Grief Group Activities:
Great Icebreakers
Chiji Processing Cards
Cards with images up for interpretation
The Ungame
Non-competitive card game with surface & deep questions

Jenga-like game that combines fun, skill, & communication
Different card decks for different topics
Grief Group Activities: In Session
Memory Basket
Chain of Events
4 Square Feelings
Garbage In...Garbage Out
Invited or Excluded?
The Place of Your Life
Writing a Letter
Rose Petals Closing Ritual

One day forum 2x/year for sophomore health students
Helps students recognize different ways of grieving in American culture & healthy ways to cope with grief
Displays that it is OKAY to talk about death in school

Death & Dying Forum
Straight Talk about Death for Teenagers – Earl A. Grollman
Bereaved Children and Teens – Earl A. Grollman
Understanding Your Grief: Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart - Alan D. Wolfelt
What On Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies? - Trevor Romain
Helping Teens Work Through Grief - Mary Kelly Perschy
Draw On Your Emotions - Margot Sunderland

Additional Resources
Barr-Harris Children’s Grief Center – Chicago - http://barrharris.org
$35 3-4 hour workshops, CEUs available
Willow House – Riverwoods, IL - http://willowhouse.org/
Offer school programs & peer support groups in several suburbs
Rainbows for All Children - http://rainbows.org/
Training program online
National Students of AMF Support Network - http://www.studentsofamf.org/

Grief is a process.
Recovering is your choice.
Grief is the price you pay for love, but you don’t have to go on paying forever.

You have endured the worst kind
of experience.
You will survive.

There is hope.
Barlow, C. A., Waegemakers Schiff, J., Chugh, U., Rawlinson, D., Hides, E., & Leith, J. (2010). An Evaluation of a Suicide Bereavement Peer Support Program. Death Studies, 34(10), 915-930.
Finn, C. A. (2003). Helping Students Cope with Loss: Incorporating Art into Group Counseling. Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 28(2), 155-165.
Granados, S., Winslade, J., De Witt, M., & Hedtke, L. (2009). Grief Counseling Groups for Adolescents Based on Re-Membering Practices. Journal Of School Counseling, 7(34).
Moore, J., & Herlihy, B. (1993). Grief Groups for Students Who Have Had a Parent Die. School Counselor, 41(1), 54-59.
Samide, L. L., & Stockton, R. (2002). Letting Go of Grief: Bereavement Groups for Children in the School Setting. Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 27(2), 192-204.
Vickio, C. J. (2008). Designing and Conducting Grief Workshops for College Students. New Directions For Student Services, (121), 41-50.
Walijarvi, C. M., Weiss, A. H., & Weinman, M. L. (2012). A Traumatic Death Support Group Program: Applying an Integrated Conceptual Framework. Death Studies, 36(2), 152-181.

Children 5 & Under
Recognize that one parent is no longer present at home
Aware that something has happened, which feels scary, unsettling, & threatening
May be aggressive & angry toward the parent they “blame”
Undeveloped or inadequate defense system to assist them in coping with the disruption in the family
Death or separation viewed as temporary
May engage in magical thinking & reunion fantasies (normal coping strategy, prevents confusing, unhappy thoughts from taking over)
Regression & separation anxiety
Passivity in working through the loss
Fearful of succumbing to same fate or illness as deceased

Memory Basket
Age level: All
Fill a basket with different items from group members that are meaningful to them regarding their lost loved ones. Then, each member tells the story behind why he/she chose that item.
References continued
Sunderland, M. (1997).
Draw On Your Emotions
. London, UK: Speechmark Publishing Ltd.
Cunningham, L. (1990). Teen AgeGrief Inc.
The Tritesse Grief Center - http://thegriefcenter.wordpress.com/

Chain of Events
Age level: All
Construct a paper chain that reconstructs the series of events leading up to a loved one's death.
4 Square Feelings
Quadrant 1 = 5 synonyms for feeling
Quadrant 2 = use words or images from magazines to describe feeling
Quadrant 3 = 5 scenarios where one might experience this feeling
Quadrant 4 = 5 movies, television shows, or songs that use this word in the title
From Teen Talk, Good Samaritan Hospice - Taken from Bereavement Magazine, Nov/Dec, 1994
From the Tritesse Grief Center - http://thegriefcenter.wordpress.com/
Garbage In...Garbage Out
Write down actual garbage thoughts & literally throw them in the garbage!
From Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. - www.SouthTampaTherapy.com
Invited or Excluded?
Age level: 13 and up
Identify the people in your life who have an open-door policy and those who often send the message to “keep out”.
The Place of Your Life
What does your life look like?
What do you want it to look like?
How could you logically get there?
Writing a Letter to a Loved One
Engages the same senses as “empty chair” technique.
The act of reincorporating a loved one’s wise words in a time of need back into a grieving teen’s life by making a “membership card” – serves as a tangible reminder of the good things when times get hard…like a memorial tattoo but less permanent!
From Draw On Your Emotions, Margot Sunderland, 1997.
From Draw On Your Emotions, Margot Sunderland, 1997.
From Grief Counseling Groups for Adolescents Based on Re-Membering Practices, Taken from Journal of School Counseling, 2009
Tend to seek out closure
Society provides an acceptable time frame for grieving
Feel pressured to “move on” & resume life as it once was
Feel pressured to be strong for others
Begin to reevaluate their own life and decisions
Families with siblings often argue over possessions, creating anger, jealousy, etc.

- Earl A. Grollman
Special Education & Grief
Age level: 11 and up
Age level: All
Age level: 13 and up
Age level: All
Age level: 13 and up
Rose Petals Closing Ritual
Facilitator explains how the rose symbolizes love and beauty, while the thorns also represent challenge and pain
The rose is passed around and each group member takes a petal in honor of loved ones and their personal journeys
Get ready to
Age level: All
May not be same developmental age as peers
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Education on emotions - what they mean, why we have them, & what to do with them
Activities - comic strips, workbooks
Emotional/Behavioral Disorders
Students more likely to go to self-destruct mode, engage in classic defense mechanisms
Activities - comic strips, art therapy
Social Learning Tree - Michelle Garcia Winner http://www.socialthinking.com
Students decorate two sides of the same mask:
"This is the me I show to others"
"This is the me I really am"
Age level: All
Thank you!
Full transcript