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Workshop participants' responses:

“Terrific leader (Mary Sussillo, LCSW) made group feel close and learn at the same time.”

“Mary’s empathic presence—very attuned to the group. Helped people connect and talk.”

“We all worked on grief issues—everyone was involved. Superb group leadership.”

“I think this is the best workshop that I have ever attended.”


Topics in this section:

Workshops for Schools

Workshops for Corporations, Small Businesses and
Employee Assistance Programs

Workshops for Funeral Directors and Staff

Workshops for Palliative Care and Hospice Programs

Workshops for Religious and Spiritual Communities

Other Organizations and Service Providers

Workshops on Grief

To provide meaningful grief support and effective services in your role as a service provider, it is helpful to be knowledgeable about the current developments in the bereavement field and to be able to differentiate between normal mourning and bereavement gone awry—complicated or traumatic mourning.

The Center for Bereavement offers caregivers and providers specific state-of-the-art workshops related to loss and grief in schools, corporations, mid-to-small businesses, service organizations, funeral homes, places of worship and spirituality, palliative care and hospice programs, and in other professional organizations. The Center can customize a workshop to meet the needs of your organization and its management, employee, or student culture.

School Programs

When a young person experiences a significant loss, adults often feel paralyzed and are unsure of how to respond in the face of the child’s helplessness and vulnerability. Therefore, workshops on cutting-edge knowledge and techniques of dealing with loss are provided to assist teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, parents, and others who support grieving students.

Workshop Themes:

How the grief of children and adolescents looks different from adults’ grief.

How the mourning experience changes, on emotional and cognitive levels, as the young person’s development progresses.

How to recognize the signs of normal grief and the red flags of complicated grief and when to respond or intervene.

How the teacher and guidance counselor, using specific interventions, help the bereaved young person.

What to say to the grieving child/adolescent and their family.

How to make use of the young person’s natural support system.

How the teacher or counselor can recognize and make constructive use of their own internal reactions (such as empathy, compassion, identification, protectiveness, anguish, anger) to the young person’s devastating loss.

How to deal with your own feelings and take care of yourself while helping a child through loss.

How to incorporate grief and loss into “teachable moments” as well as into a planned curriculum.

How to use the creative arts to enable the child/adolescent to express his/her grief in a meaningful way.

Some suggested workshop titles:

How to Recognize and Support “Good Grief” at School (and at Home)

Ways for the School Team to Help Grieving Children at School

The Grieving Child: When Is Counseling Recommended

Challenges to Counselors Leading Bereavement Groups for Children

Corporations, Small Businesses, and
Employee Assistance Programs

American workers mourn the deaths of 2.4 million loved ones each year, according to a Grief Recovery Institute research study (Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2002). The study estimates that grief (related to death) costs the United States $37.5 billion annually in absenteeism, diminished productivity, accidents, injuries, medical, and other costs. These findings are based on interviews with more than 25,000 grieving people; almost all said that their job performance was affected. Understandably, when an employee is devastated or deeply saddened by a significant loss, his/her concentration and memory are not working up to par. Some employees may develop health problems, emotional and/or physical, in reaction to unresolved grief.

Thus, it behooves an effective organization to have Workplace Grief Practices and Procedures developed and implemented—both to protect its valuable employees and its bottom line—by providing training/educational workshops for Human Resources staff, managers, and supervisors, as well as grief awareness and coping workshops for employees. Further, the organizational leadership can offer consultation and referral—through the Employee Assistance Program or Human Resources Department—for employees and their family members to access bereavement services in the community.

Further, when an organization loses one of its own employees through death, the immediate work group and related departments are most directly affected. Coworkers may feel deeply saddened, confused, preoccupied, and, sometimes, anxious about their own wellbeing. An opportunity to share thoughts and feelings with others, to discuss effective coping strategies and to remember the lost employee in the safety of a workshop format, can be an invaluable tool in helping to restore the relatedness and vitality of the work group.

Consultation Themes for Management:

What are the current grief and time-off policies and practices in the organization?

Are these policies and practices meeting the needs of the organization and the employees?

Are managers knowledgable of the state-of-the-art research on healthy adaptation to loss that has changed our understanding of the mourning process?

Are managers aware of the differing cultural responses to the mourning process?

Have managers been briefed on when to refer a troubled employee for grief counseling through their Employee Assistance Program or local community mental health resources?

Do managers have guidelines to enhance their effective and compassionate communication with employees about their loss, and to suggest outside support or professional help, when needed?

Educational Workshop Themes for Employees:

What is healthy mourning (“good grief”)?

What are some effective coping strategies to deal with loss?

What does bereavement research tell us about the optimal conditions for constructive adaptation to loss?

In addition to valuable support from family and friends during the mourning process, when is more help needed?

How to manage the effects of mourning in the workplace.

How to manage mourning at home.

Some suggested workshop titles:

Grief in the Workplace

“Good Grief” in the Workplace

Coping Tools to Deal with Loss

Managing Change and Loss

What Every Employee Should Know about Coping with Loss

Funeral Home Directors and Staff

Funeral home directors and their staff are often the first people to relate to the mourner and their family in the immediate aftermath of the death of a loved one. It is the beginning of a period of acute mourning—the bereaved may be feeling numb, overwhelmed, frightened, disorganized, and helpless. Funeral home staff are assisting the mourner and family at the height of a sensitive and deeply vulnerable time.

How a family (with its particular culture and, perhaps, religious or spiritual beliefs) cares for the body of its dead, and separates physically from that person, is a complicated and delicate process. There is the potential for the close cooperation of the “tribe” as well as for intense family strife. In order to ensure the most positive family communication, decision-making, and parting rituals, and to minimize the negative effects of loss, Center for Bereavement offers workshops for funeral home directors and their staff.

Workshop Themes:

What is the acute phase of mourning in the immediate aftermath of death of a loved one?

What to say to the mourner and their family upon first meeting them, and how to relate in an effective and compassionate way throughout the funeral home process.

How to create a trusting environment and engage family members with you and each other in the most positive and respectful way.

How to deal with dysfunctional families during different phases of your interaction with them.

How to offer community resources to the mourner and their family in a helpful yet non-intrusive way.

Palliative Care and Hospice Programs

Workshops and/or team consultation or staff group facilitation for end-of-life care are provided.

Workshop or Staff Group Themes:

How to provide a structure to help process the healthcare professional’s range of feelings during the patient’s extended dying process and its aftermath—to prevent burnout and to restore the professional’s sense of hope and vitality.

Self-care and team care for the health professional/caregiver.

Dealing with the family’s fear, guilt, helplessness, and demands.

Assisting the family to deal with their “anticipated” grief, unfinished business with their declining or dying loved one, their potential need to ask for and give forgiveness, and to express affection and love.
How to help siblings or other members of the “tribe’’ to make crucial decisions with or for the patient, and to deal with family conflicts constructively.

How and when to suggest grief counseling to the family.

Related community Services for individual survivors or family members.

Religious and Spiritual Communities

Workshops are offered by the Center to enhance the clergy’s understanding of the ways loss and bereavement impact individuals and their families and how best to help them.

Clergy and other spiritual leaders have a long tradition of supporting, comforting, and providing meaning to community members at a time of loss. Among the roles of clergy at end-of-life are to assist individuals and their families to prepare for the loss when facing protracted and terminal illness, to navigate through the dying process, to officiate at the funeral and other services/rituals, and to offer guidance post-loss to the survivors. Some clergy offer pastoral grief counseling directly to the bereaved.

For those individuals and families who have an active affliation with a religious/spiritual community, their minister, priest, rabbi, imam, lama, or other leader is often a trusted and reliable figure. Anticipating death, others may turn or return to faith or spirituality as they confront existential questions. The bereaved seek solace during the mourning process to mitigate their anguish, disorientation, and overpowering sense of helplessness. Thus, the clergy can make a critical difference in the experience of the dying and the bereaved at one of the most challenging and often overwhelming times.

Workshop Themes:

How different types of loss affect the mourning process.

Understanding anticipatory grief vs. post-loss grief

What the state-of-the-art research informs us about healthy adaptation to loss.

How to differentiate healthy mourning from complicated mourning.

Best methods of intervention when individuals are stuck in complicated or traumatic grief.

When to refer the mourner for professional help and peer support.

Self-care for the caregiver.

Other Organizations

Workshops are offered for staffs of service organizations including hospitals, social service agencies, caregiver communities, nurses’ associations, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes, among others.