2015 Conference Program


Thank you to everyone involved in the 2015 NW Conference on Childhood Grief.  We are thrilled with the success of the conference and are currently busy planning a conference for 2016!

Print the 2015 program NW Conference on Childhood Grief Conference Program.

Pricing Information: [expand]

We have decreased the cost of the conference by $50 in order to make the conference accessible to everyone who wants to join us.  $150 includes, CEUs, breakfast and lunch both days, as well as an evening reception on Friday. $50 discounts available for speakers and students.  We have also added ONE DAY options for those of you who can only attend for one of the two days.  See the registration site for more details: REGISTRATION IS CLOSED[/expand]

Continuing Education Units: [expand]


This conference is appropriate for Nurses, Doctors, Teachers, School Counselors, Psychiatrists, Therapists, Social Workers, Clinicians and Volunteers and Students in Related Fields. There are a total of 13.5 CEUs available for attending each of the two-day conference. Continuing education credit for this event is co-sponsored by Safe Crossings Foundation and   The Institute for Continuing Education.   The program offers 7.50 contact for Day 1; and 6.00 contact hours for Day 2.  Read More…

 Credit is awarded on a session-by-session basis, with full attendance required for the sessions attended.   Application forms will be available on site. If you have   questions regarding continuing education, please contact The Institute at: 251-990-5030 email: instconted@aol.com  

Psychology: The Institute for Continuing Education is an organization approved by the American psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The Institute for Continuing Education maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

Counseling: The Institute for Continuing Education is an NBCC approved continuing education provider ( ACEP ™ ) and co-sponsor of this event. The Institute for Continuing Education may award NBCC approved clock hours for events or programs that meet NBCC requirements. The ACEP maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

Social Work:        The Institute for Continuing Education is approved as a provider for social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), though the Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. The Institute for Continuing Education maintains responsibility for the program.   ASWB Provider No. 1007.     Licensed social workers should contact their individual state jurisdiction to review current continuing education requirements for license renewal.

California Board of Behavioral Sciences Provider No. PCE 636.

Illinois Dept. Professional Regulation Provider No. 159-000606.

Ohio Counselor and Social Work Provider No. RCS 030001.

Florida Dept. Health, Div. SW, MFT, Counseling Provider BAP 255, expiration 03/17.

Marriage-Family Therapy: The Institute for Continuing Education is recognized as a provider of continuing education by the California Board of Sciences Provider PCE 636.

Drug-Alcohol: The Institute for Continuing Education is approved by the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) to provide continuing education for alcohol and drug abuse counselors. NAADAC Provider No. 00243.

Nursing:   The Institute for Continuing Education is an approved provider of continuing education in nursing by the California Board of Nursing, Provider CEP 12646. Nurses are responsible for checking with their state board to determine if credit issued through and approved provider of the CA Board of Nursing is honored by their state board.

Skills Level: Due to the interdisciplinary nature of this event, sessions have not been ranked for skill level. Participants are urged to review the session descriptions for appropriateness for professional and personal needs.

Non-Credit Events: CE credit is not offered for registration, board meetings, meal functions, and breaks.  [/expand]

ADA Statement: [expand]

If you have special needs, please contact Molly at 206-652-4723 or email: info@safecrossingsfoundation.org

Cancellation Policy:

Refunds will be provided for registrations cancelled in writing and received by January 15th. A cancellation penalty of $75 will apply. Substitutions can be made at any time, but will require advance written notice.


Keynote Speaker

Kenneth J. Doka, PhD, MDiv, is a Professor of Gerontology at the Graduate School of The College of New Rochelle and a Senior Consultant to the Hospice Foundation of America (HFA). He is an expert on grief and grieving, and lectures worldwide on the topic. A prolific author and editor, Dr. Doka serves as editor of HFA’s Living with Grief® book series, its Journeys newsletter, and numerous other books and publications.

Conference Schedule:

Friday, Feb 20th – DAY 1


8:00 – 9:00 AM Breakfast and Registration

9:00 – 10:30 AM Welcome and Keynote Address – Dr. Kenneth Doka, Ph.D. MDiv

This keynote—delivered in two-parts—addresses the impact of sudden and traumatic losses such as accident, suicide, or homicide affect children and adolescents. The first presentation delineates the problem—reviewing how children and adolescent’s perception of death and grief develop and exploring the ways that traumatic loss complicates the grieving process. The second keynote presentation (on Day 2) investigates evidence-based interventions that can be used in schools and groups as well as individual counseling.

At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Trace the ways that orientations and attitudes toward death change through childhood and adolescence;
  2. Discuss the ways that development affects the mourning process;
  3. Describe developmentally unexpected loss and indicate the ways that traumatic losses such as accident, suicide, or homicide complicates grieving;
  4. Evaluate and describe clinical interventions that are appropriate for children and adolescents;
  5. Discuss the nature of grief support and death education at varied ages.
  6. Describe intervention techniques such as biblio-therapy, expressive approaches, and ritual.

10:30 – Noon Session #1 Options:

1. Andy McNiel, M.A.: Five Issues Impacting the Childhood Bereavement Field in the Next Five Years.   The childhood bereavement support field has seen tremendous growth over the past 40 years with the increase in local bereavement support programs offered throughout the United States. As the field has grown so has the discussion about best practice and how to best provide support to bereaved children and their families. Most recently, the removal of the bereavement exception from the DSM V diagnostic criteria for major depression has sparked much national debate over the inclusion of a proposed “diagnosis” for bereavement that is prolonged and with intensified symptoms. How do these issues impact the future development of the childhood bereavement field and what other issues are impacting the field in the next five years?

Learning Objectives:

  • Participants will increase their understanding of current research impacting and gaps in research impacting childhood bereavement
  • Participants will increase their understanding of the differing opinions regarding inclusion of a bereavement diagnosis in the DSM
  • Participants will identify ways they can advocate for bereaved children and families in their local communities

2. Lulu Verneuil, MSW and Nancy Stillger, M.A.:  Supporting Children Facing Loss through Draw It Out.    Learn how to use Art with Heart’s latest resource for elementary aged kids facing grief and loss in your practice or program. Draw It Out is an interactive workbook that uses creative self-expression to help children (ages 6+) cope with loss and the grief that accompanies it. Developed by a team of experts based on several relevant areas of research and best practice, the workbook acts as a catalyst to healthy emotional expression and serves as an “empathetic listener” for children. Through age appropriate prompts that serve as an outlet for inner pain and a springboard to healing conversations, children learn how to put their grief on paper and will learn life skills that will build upon their ability to face future challenges.

Learning Objectives:

  • To be introduced to best practices of working with creativity and grief. Why art?
  • To enable participants to learn how to use the Draw It Out workbook (included in their conference materials) in different settings and situations. Learn how it can be used to help a child honor the loss, identify support systems, express feelings, tell their story and more.
  • To learn how the Draw It Out workbook can be used programmatically in conjunction with a Leader’s Companion that provides experiential art activities and closing questions to deepen children’s learning.

3. Maureen Horgan, MSW, LICSW: Hope is a Four-Legged Word. The session will provide information and examples of the benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy in therapeutic work with grieving children and families.   Participants will leave the session with a general understanding of the benefits of AAA/T (Animal Assisted Activity/Therapy), strategies for interacting with the animal and grieving child/family, a brief overview of animal therapy team training and how develop an AAA/T program.   Participants will have the opportunity to observe and interact with therapy dog Dresden.

Learning Objectives:

  • Recognize the impact and benefit of a AAA/T program for grieving children, families and hospice/palliative care professionals.
  • Describe AAA/T strategies and interventions for supporting grieving children and families.
  • Understand characteristics of a successful therapy dog team and resources for becoming a AAA/T team.
  • Identify the components for developing and implementing an animal assistance activity and therapy program.

Noon-1:00 PM Lunch

1:00 – 2:30 PM Session #2 Options

1. Megan Lopez, LMSW: Programming, Thinking Outside the Box. Wouldn’t it be great if one form of support group worked for every kid/family? Unfortunately this is not the case. So at some point while working with children we have to think outside the box and look at what works best for them. In this session we will be doing just that. Looking at what barriers come up for kids and families and how we can overcome those barriers with some creative programming without compromising our ethical responsibilities. We will look at several options, partnership opportunities, and getting the community involved.

Learning Objectives:

  • List barriers that effect children attending support groups.
  • Discuss some out of the box programming options.
  • Discuss different partnership opportunities and outside programming.

2.Bethany Gardner, MA, LMHCA: The Healing Power of Grief Camp: An Exclusive Screening and Discussion of HBO’s Documentary One Last Hug: Three Days at Grief Camp.  Come for an intimate look at the healing and magic that takes place at bereavement camp. Proudly supported by The Moyer Foundation, New York Life and featuring Camp Erin, the HBO documentary One Last Hug (…and a few smooches) Three Days at Grief Camp, profiles four stories of children who have experienced the death of a parent. Not yet available to the public for purchase, this breakout session will feature an exclusive viewing of One Last Hug, followed by a brief presentation, discussion and local referral information.

Learning Objectives:

  • Engage awareness of personal grief responses to the film as a trauma stewardship tool.
  • Identify three goals addressed at Camp Erin, a national network of free, overnight grief support camps for children and teens who have experience the death of someone close to them.
  • Identify three activities depicted in the film that can be utilized in grief support groups, grief camps or private practice settings.

2:30 – 4 PM Session #3 Options:

1. Heather Neal, MSW: Concrete Tools for Health Care Professionals Who Provide Pre-bereavement Support for Families with Children.  This presentation will outline a practice model which Health Care Professionals can use to offer specific tools for adult caregivers to initiate discussion concerning difficult information   concerning serious illness and loss to children. By increasing our own understanding of how children experience grief and loss, we can better assist families with children to navigate the normal and necessary process of grieving, and to better understand the importance of offering truthful information.

Learning Objectives:

  • Participants will gain an increased understanding of children’s grief responses and how they manifest in the feelings and behaviors of children based on age/developmental stages.
  • Participants will gain knowledge concerning the bereavement needs of grieving children and how they can be impacted by the opportunity to receive grief support prior to the expected death of a loved one.
  • Participants will be able to offer guidance to adult caregivers who are supporting grieving children, utilizing concrete assessment considerations, tools and language.
  • Participants will gain confidence in providing guidance for adults to communicate difficult medical information to children, and offering time of death opportunities which can significantly impact the potential for a healthy grieving process.

2. Juliana Perez, MSW: Mindful Approaches to Working with Grieving Children and Families. The practice of mindfulness is about developing the capacity to be present and aware, allowing emotions without judgment, and developing loving kindness and compassion with oneself and others. This presentation will introduce those working with children and families to the use of mindfulness meditation as self-care (to be present to their own stress and emotions), but will also provide some basic tools for using mindfulness in their practice with children, teens or adults going through grief.

Learning Objectives:

  • Mindfulness meditation as a way to relieve stress for those working with children and families
  • Mindfulness meditation as a tool to use with grieving children, teens and families
  • Mindfulness as a means for witnessing and companioning clients through the grief process

3. Jen McCormick, MSW: Creating a Safe Space for Bereaved Children. This presentation will focus on the concept of providing a safe space for children to express their grief. At the Healing Center, we believe children know what they need to do to grieve. Our job is to provide a variety of modalities to give children options for grief expression. The options provided allow children to feel comfortable and accepted during their time at The Healing Center. I will discuss several modalities for grief expression including the ritual of eating together as a community, establishing rules, circle time, playing games, sand tray therapy, art expression, and free play. We will have a chance to take a closer look at some of the games we play during circle time to get children talking and thinking about their grief process.

Learning Objectives:

  • Explain the importance of providing various modalities for grief expression in order to create a safe space.
  • Discuss the difference between directive and non-directive interventions in grief group work.
  • Describe three different therapeutic modalities used to facilitate grief work with children.


4:00 – 5:30 PM Session #4 Options:

1. Andy McNiel, M.A.: Expanding Bereavement Support Services to the Un-served Children and Teens in Your Community. Though there has been tremendous growth in the availability of bereavement support services for children and teens in the United States over the past 40 years, there still remain parts of our communities where children do not have access to these important services. How do we make bereavement support services available to un-served children and teens in our communities? The National Alliance for Grieving Children (NAGC) and New York Life Foundation (NYLF) have been partnering for the past four years to provide grants to bereavement programs across the United States to expand their services to under-served populations. This presentation will provide insight into the challenges of expansion and solutions to these challenges that can be duplicated by bereavement programs that want to expand their current services.

Learning objectives:

  • Participants will learn techniques to effective build relationships with key constituents throughout their service area
  • Participants will increase their understanding of how to diversify their clinical services
  • Participants will identify strategies for providing bereavement support services to currently un-served parts of their community

2. Grief Camp Panel: Grief Camp 101: What to expect from start to finish. Grief camps offer unique and life changing experiences for campers who have had someone special in their life die. How do you run a grief camp program that is both meaningful and fun? Come hear from a panel of Camp Erin coordinators from programs around the Puget Sound. This interactive presentation will address the major challenges and achievements of three different grief camps. Topics of discussion will include grief activities for a camp environment, providing a safe clinical setting, camper recruitment and registration, volunteer training, plus plenty of time for Q&A.

Panel Includes: Darren Wenz, LICSW, CT , Lisa Ward-Duke, MSW, Chris Olson, Emili Fletcher, Heather Sessions

Learning Objectives:

  • Design impactful and therapeutic clinical grief activities for kids and teens in a camp context.
  • Creating a safe clinical environment where children and teens have the opportunity to grieve.
  • Understand the basics of running a grief camp and the components necessary for a weekend program.


5:30 – 6:30 PM On-Site Reception and Networking Mixer – Wine, Beer and Appetizers


Saturday, Feb 21st – DAY 2


8:00 – 9:00 AM Breakfast and Registration

9:00 – 10:30 AM Keynote Address – Dr. Kenneth Doka, Ph.D. MDiv

10:30 – Noon Session #5:

2. Christine Linnehan, M.S.: Creative Pathways to Resilience: Effective Interventions for Children and Adolescents After Traumatic Loss. View/Print Session Materials: In this interactive workshop, we will explore creative, restorative interventions that can be applied in clinical and grief support settings to promote stability, self-regulation, and resilience while providing children and teens a safe way to tell their stories of loss. Case examples and experiential practices will be used to illustrate how various art modalities can provide a structure to identify, express, and assimilate the wide range of feelings that may surface after loss while offering bereaved children an opportunity to create new visions of wholeness and hope. Particular consideration will be given to the importance of tailoring each intervention to the child’s developmental level, needs, and interests.

Learning Objectives:

  • List at least 3 risk and protective factors that impact a child’s ability to cope with trauma and loss
  • Describe at least two creative strategies for helping bereaved children cope with anxiety and hyper-arousal
  • Cite an example of the use of movement, music, and storytelling as restorative interventions for bereaved children/teens

Noon-1:00 PM Lunch

1:00 – 2:30 PM Session #6 Options:

1. Annie McCall, M.A. & Melissa A. Morrissette  LICSW, CDP, CMHS:  Chill & Spill: Using Expressive Arts to Support Trauma Recovery.   Participants will learn how to bring the expressive arts into their program or practice with teens facing trauma. Art with Heart’s Chill & Spill journal for teens is a promising prevention and intervention tool based in cognitive behavioral, narrative and art therapies. From the survivors of disaster to those suffering traumatic loss, teens use Chill & Spill to help them express both their suffering and strength, facilitating healing, promoting coping skills, and building self-confidence.

Learning Objectives:

  • To be introduced to best practices of working with creativity to support trauma recovery.
  • To introduce using the Chill & Spill journal and its therapeutic benefits.
  • To learn how the Chill & Spill journal can be used programmatically in conjunction with a Leader’s Companion that provides experiential art activities and discussion questions to assist with healing.

2. Jill Meyers, M.A.: Therapeutic Drama Techniques Supporting Children and Teens in their Grief process. [expand]After providing an overview of the presentation and sharing of basic Drama Therapy theory, this presentation will be experiential in nature. It will be more aligned as a workshop experience. The activities will address a range of developmental levels supporting application for both children and teens. The activities will also specifically relate to grief processing of feelings; story-telling; companioning the client; empathy building; trust. Various modalities will be employed in order to help inform participants about the wide-ranging opportunities drama and theatre offer the healing process. There will be time for Q/A throughout the experience.

Learning Objectives:

  • Introduce participants to a general overview of Drama Therapy Theory: Strength based ideology; anthropological focus
  • Identify concrete therapeutic tools to companion grieving youth through application of drama related techniques. By the end of workshop presentation participants will have experienced dramatic application of expression of feelings; creative problem-solving/coping skills; companioning; collaboration; actively applying client’s strengths; empathy building.
  • Ability to self-assess activities for direct application into clinical practice
  • Clinicians will receive handouts of activities with guidance supporting facilitation and use in clinical practice.

3. Megan Lopez, LMSW: How to Introduce Grief into Your Classroom. Children grieve in all settings. Coming from an education background myself, I have seen children struggling in school to participate, pay attention, and succeed due to things going on outside of the school walls. In this session we will explore how to talk about grief in the school setting without putting extra pressures and demands on teaching staff. We will look at different age groups and how to best reach them where they are. We will also discuss when a tragedy affects the whole school and how you can best support the faculty and children. Kids need a neutral person to talk through their thoughts and feelings about the death. Why can’t that be at school?

Learning Objectives:

  • Discuss strategy on how to introduce grief into your classroom.
  • Discuss strategy on how to support the entire school after a tragedy.
  • Age appropriate activities and subject matter you’re already talking about.

2:30 – 4:00 PM Closing Plenary – Michelle Post, LMFT: What have you done for YOU lately? Secondary Traumatic Stress and burn-out prevention for caregivers.

Have you been feeling stressed, complaining without offering solutions, experiencing somatic complaints or just feeling like your tank is running on empty? You may be burning out or experiencing compassion fatigue or what is called secondary traumatic stress. We teach our grieving families to care for themselves, but sometimes neglect ourselves in the process. The cost of losing experienced people and the time and money to search for and train new staff and volunteers can be averted with a little TLC. Join this interactive fun discussion about what you can do for yourself and your staff to assess, prevent, and treat compassion fatigue aka Secondary Traumatic Stress.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify at least three symptoms of compassion fatigue
  2. Describe three interventions to manage stress
  3. Create a self-care plan that can be taught to staff and volunteers up front and prevent burn out

4:30 PM Conference Close and Sign-Out


Thank you to our Conference Sponsors:


Thank you to our Community Partners:


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