29 - Supporting Children and Teens Through Sudden Death: a Conversation With Prominent Speaker, Author and Psychotherapist Dr. Tina Payne Bryson

In today’s podcast I interview psychologist and author Dr. Tina Payne Bryson.  Dr. Bryson is the author of multiple books, including Bottom Line for Baby and the following books co-authored with Dr. Dan Siegel, The Power of Showing Up and The Yes Brain, as well as The Whole-Brain Child. Tina is also the Founder and Executive Director of The Center for Connection, a multidisciplinary clinical practice, and of The Play Strong Institute, a center devoted to the study, research, and practice of play therapy through a neurodevelopment lens, both located in Pasadena, California.

Tina shares her experience with the unexpected death of her father and the impact it had on her. She talks with us about how to best support both young children and teens who have experienced a sudden or unexpected death and provides tools that parents, grandparents and caring adults can use to “show up” or comfort children and teens during this challenging and difficult time. We also talk about resiliency in children and how love, support, and patience from important adult figures can help young people heal and lead healthy lives even after the experience of a sudden or unexpected death of a loved one.


Key Points:

Adults serve as meaning makers for children of all ages. Young children and teens look to us for guidance on how to interpret life events, especially the challenging ones.

Children and young people need the adults in their life when they are experiencing stress and difficult life challenges, especially the sudden or unexpected death of a loved one. Tina shares the 4 S’s to use with children and teens. They need to feel Safe, Seen, Soothed and Secure during these difficult times to foster healing.

When it comes to grief, I highly recommend adults release any expectations about how you believe your children should react or behave in bereavement or mourning. Just let them be. Notwithstanding destructive or self-harming behaviors, children and teens will grieve in the manner they need. I encourage you to offer a safe space to process their feelings, ask questions or request additional help. When you let the grief occur in the context of this type of relationship, they are more likely to be safe, seen, secure and be soothed.

Give yourself grace and compassion and know that you are enough.  Tina’s references to the attachment literature provides evidence that it only takes one caring, consistent, loving adult in a child’s life to contribute to the emotional well-being of a healthy young adult.

If you want an opportunity to connect with Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, please join our Facebook group “Talking about the Podcast Untethered with Dr. Levin.”  You can also learn more about Dr. Bryson by visiting her website at www.tinabryson.com, The Center for Connection at www.thecenterforconnection.org, and the Play Strong Institute at www.playstronginstitute.com.


Thank you so much for joining today’s episode of Untethered: Healing the Pain After a Sudden Death.  Our podcast Untethered is now hosted on my Therapy Heals website. To learn more about hope and guidance after sudden or unexpected death, please visit therapyheals.com and sign up for my monthly newsletter Guidance in Grief.


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