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Bereaved Military Children: Group Intervention


Bereavement is one of the most stressful events, and it is closely linked to anxiety, depression, fear, aggressiveness, and regression. The consequences of bereavement are more severe in children than in adults. Studies designed to explore the effects of the demise of a parent on children indicate that the bereaved are highly affected when such deaths come due to the artificial occurrences such as suicide or lynching (Goldman, 2013). Due to the mentioned adverse effects on survivors, interventions are needed to mitigate the symptoms. Various studies indicate that group interventions produce the best results. Such interventions bring together children with similar problems and afford them an opportunity to interact and share their experiences with each other. This paper will explore group intervention strategies designed to help the bereaved children of the deceased military parents aged between 12 and 17 years to cope with the challenges presented by the bereavement.

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The structural factors that may have affected the group and its development

The setting of the group support intervention brings together children with similar experiences, which are usually stress and depression. The similarity of experiences helps children in the group to cope with the overwhelming stigma. The child feels more comfortable sharing his or her experiences with other children on a common ground setting. This aspect fosters the outcome of the therapy since the key objective is to fight anxiety and depression symptoms, which are intensified by stigma. However, differentials within the group are evident due to the timing of the deaths. Often, children who lost their parents a long time ago often acquire coping skills that they pass to their counterparts who recently lost their parents. Research indicates that group intervention is effective when participants are allowed to interact with each other and share their experiences (Cohen & Mannarino, 2011). The sitting arrangements of the kids also influence the outcome since children tend to make friendship with their seatmates. Therefore, it should be designed in such a way that it reflects such differences to allow the passage of coping skills.

Individual experiences of the traumatic incidence vary from one participant to the other with some members recording more depressive and aggressive behaviors as compared to others. Sharing the experiences helps individuals in making comparisons coupled with instilling a feeling of homogeneity among the group members. The homogeneity feeling allows the participants to interact freely hence disclosing all the disturbing issues. The disclosure of such facts allows the facilitator to understand the level of depression and aggressiveness of each child. This aspect allows the facilitator to make viable decisions regarding the kind of intervention to be afforded.

Ethical issues that may or have arisen in the group and how to handle them

The medical code of ethics provides that confidentiality of information extracted from patients should be maintained at all costs. Besides, such information should not be used for any other purpose. In group therapy, this provision may be compromised easily as the involved children share their experiences in a group setting. Information from each participant is shared with all the members, hence compromising the confidentiality of such information. Additionally, information extracted from the participants is stored in computers, which may be accessible to other facilitators and unauthorized individuals. A court order may also compromise the confidentiality principle through an order for disclosure of such information (Cohen & Olshever, 2013). I would advise the group members to avoid sharing such information with outsiders to ensure confidentiality. Besides, I would ensure that computers in which the information is stored are protected using complex passwords to deter unauthorized access. Finally, I would ensure that only information on a specific case is dispensed to avoid publicizing information on a group member following a court order.

An assessment of the group’s actions, interactions, behaviors, and processes

The facilitator commenced the first session by allowing the students to introduce themselves through a mention of the name and other basic information such as their grades in school as well as their favorite hobbies (Toseland & Rivas, 2005). Each student received a clap from the other participants and the facilitator after the introduction. After each student had mentioned his or her name, the facilitator introduced the topic of the session. The facilitator then explained the reason for the gathering and the methods to be used to facilitate the training. Afterward, the psychologists explained to the kids the meaning of the term “death” by asking questions regarding its causes and consequences. The trainer used an example of heart attack to convince the children that there are many death causes apart from lynching. The misconceptions and stereotypes presented by the kids regarding death were explained during this phase.

The second session presented an opportunity for the kids to share their experiences with the group members. The kids were asked to share their feelings about their parents’ death. However, this aspect was optional, and no one was forced to talk about it if he or she felt uncomfortable to share the experience. Drawing and writing activities were incorporated to allow the kids express the feelings that could not be orally expressed. The kids were then provided with two sheets of paper on which they were told to draw five balloons. Inside each balloon, they were required to indicate what they lost following the death of their parents. On the other sheet, the students drew another set of five balloons on which they indicated what they retained after the deaths. The items sheet indicated in the second were used to instill hope in the kids as they indicated that they still had people who cared about them.

In the third session, the children were comfortable with each other, and they shared pictures of their departed parents together with the memories of things they did together. The children were then asked to write a letter to their dead parents as a symbolic way of expressing their feelings. Some children wrote about the beautiful moments that they spent together. Others expressed the achievements that they had made in the aftermath of the death. The cited achievements helped children to accept the view that their parents are gone and that they had a bright future ahead. The letter also served as an opportunity for kids who had difficulties expressing themselves orally to share their experiences.

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How the facilitator attempted to gain rapport and the extent of achievement

The facilitator was keen to avoid issues that could easily translate into non-cooperation in the first phase of the interaction with the kids. The facilitator was guided by the notion that certain issues may cause aggressiveness among the kids if explored in the initial phases of the intervention process (Doka, 2014). Therefore, the facilitator was careful when selecting the issues to be discussed during the initial phases. Another way that the facilitators build rapport with the kids is through letting them introduce themselves before the start of the session. Besides, the facilitator encouraged children who did not have the courage to stand in front of the room and share their experiences to write or represent such feelings in diagrams.

The tutor also instilled a sense of hope to the kids by requiring them to describe what they lost following the death of the parents. The children were also asked to explain what they still have even after the death of their guardians. Surprisingly, the kids disclosed that they still had their caring mothers (in case the dad had passed on), had gained new friends, and had performed well in school. Based on such positive responses, the tutor encouraged the kids to view life from a positive perspective and avoid counting the losses arising from the death. The tutor also suggested that he or she was a new friend to the kids and that he or she would be willing to assist them. This aspect created rapport between him or her and the clients, thus making them feel comfortable to share their feelings with other group members.

My interventions as a facilitator

If I were the facilitator in the next session, I would subdivide the meeting into three sub-sessions. Under the arrangement, the first session would be used to revisit the activities done in the previous sessions. I would require each participant to describe the benefits that he or she has observed after the previous session and cite any negative or positive feelings experienced following the intervention. Towards the end of the session, I would introduce the topic of the day, which would major on the children’s personal grief as opposed to memories of the deceased parent covered in the previous sessions.

During the second sub-session, I would explain the meaning of the word grief. At this point, I would present a sheet of paper to each kid and ask him or her to draw a diagram showing grief. Each child would then explain his or her diagram and from the explanations, I would then draw mine and explain it. My diagram would take the form of two girls – one weeping and the other one laughing, to illustrate that grief does not last forever.

In the last sub-session, I would explain the meaning of the term grief together with its symptoms. I would ask every kid to suggest ways to deal with grief and evaluate each response. In this session, I would encourage the children to remember their parents in a positive way especially during holidays. Some of the ways I would suggest is buying a small gift for them during various vacations such as Christmas. I would also encourage the kids to pose questions on the topic discussed to attract their suggestions.


Bereavement may expose one to severe psychological damages that need to be controlled. The damage is more severe in children than in adults apparently due to the difference in the coping abilities. Group therapy has been suggested as one of the most effective intervention for kids undergoing grief after the loss of a parent (Park, 2011). Group therapy involves bringing the children together and encouraging them to share their experiences with each other. The facilitator abandons his or her worldview and starts viewing life from the kids’ perspective. The best ways to cope with the symptoms of grief are explained, and the kids are encouraged to embrace them.


Cohen, A., & Mannarino, P. (2011). Supporting children with traumatic grief: What educators need to know. School Psychology International, 32(2), 117-131.

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Cohen, S., & Olshever, A. (2013). IASWG Standards for Social Work Practice with Groups: Development, Application, and Evolution. Social Work with Groups, 36(2-3), 111-129.

Doka, K. (2014). Children mourning, mourning children. London, UK: Taylor & Francis.

Goldman, L. (2013). Life and loss: A guide to help grieving children. London, UK: Routledge.

Park, N. (2011). Military children and families: strengths and challenges during peace and war. American Psychologist, 66(1), 65-72.

Toseland, W., & Rivas, F. (2005). An Introduction to Group Work Practice. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

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