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Posted August 31, 2005

Book: Grief and Loss: Theories and Skills for Helping Professionals
Author: Katherine Walsh-Burke
Pearson, Boston, pp.130

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Every helping professional will encounter grief and loss in practice. Are you prepared for the inevitable?

Using a rich variety of case examples to illustrate essential theories and skills, Katherine Walsh-burke allows current and future helping professionals to see how these theories will enhance their own practice. Culture, spirituality, age, gender, and other factors that influence grief reactions are discussed, preparing readers to understand and work with diverse populations. Individual and programmatic responses to grieving people are included.


Key concepts related to grief and loss that are often omitted from professional training programs are addressed, preparing practitioners to deal with issues they encounter in everyday practice.

Case examples illustrate theories and skills, allowing students to see how these theories will enhance their own practice.

Individual and programmatic responses to grieving people are included.

Student exercises to be completed either as independent assignments or as in-class activities are included in each chapter.

Companion web site includes slides, suggested Internet sites, and supplemental learning tools that connect students to current and credible resources beyond those included in the text.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Many counselors, teachers, and rehabilitation specialists now include spirituality in their assessments and interventions. Just as individual helpers cannot be expected to be competent with all of the multitude of cultural groups found in most practice settings, not all helpers are expected to be experts in spirituality. However, it is useful to be aware of diverse religious and spiritual practices in order to better understand their significance to those we are helping. Inclusive language that uses a variety of religious and spiritual references is important in conveying understanding and acceptance in exploring coping. For example, open-ended questions that acknowledge differences are more helpful than close-ended questions such as, “Are you planning to hold a funeral?” An example of an open-ended question is, “Is there a specific spiritual or religious practice that you or your family have found helpful in the past?” This question conveys understanding that there is wide variation in the practices or beliefs of individuals and families. Familiarity with a broad range of practices and belief systems enables a counselor to better use inclusive language. However, even more important than specific knowledge is the awareness of different cultures and the willingness to acknowledge personal limitations in the knowledge of those cultures and spiritual orientations.

It is also important to attend to verbal and non-verbal signals that might indicate the importance of religion or spirituality. The presence of religious or spiritual articles such as clothing, medals, or books might indicate that the grieving person is drawing on spiritual resources. When concern or conflict about religion or spirituality is expressed by someone facing loss, there may be a need for further exploration or referral to a spiritual resource. There are a number of tools that are used by psychologists, social workers, and pastoral care counselors to assess spirituality.

Table of Contents:

1. Loss experiences that generate grief reactions

2. Self-preparation and training for professional encountering loss and grief

3. Loss and grief across the lifespan

4. Normal and complicated grief reactions

5. Cultural and spiritual influences

6. What can we do to help?

7. When organizations and communities grieve

8. Self-care: sustaining hope, helpfulness, and competence in working with grief