Research Areas

Grief Over the Life Cycle with Special Emphasis on Widowhood and Losses in Childhood; Mutual Help


Ph.D., Brandeis University

Sc. M. Hyg., Harvard School of Public Health

M.S.S., Smith College School for Social Work


Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

Personal Web Page

Raising Grieving Children Blog Article

Video: Phyllis Silverman on Lessons Learned from Work with the Bereaved

Phyllis Rolfe Silverman

Phyllis Rolfe Silverman

Phyllis Rolfe Silverman

My early work was with the widowed and I learned that a woman’s sense of self is changed by this experience. The need for change is often overlooked in how people cope with the death of a key person in their lives. As children deal with the death of a parent, their needs are often overlooked. The MGH/Harvard Child Bereavement Study, was designed to understand more about children’s grief. I was project director and co-principal investigator. What I learned is reflected in my writing about the bereaved family and in my association with the Children’s Room. My research has pioneered the value of learning from peers who share a common problem and this is exemplified by the helping mode in the Children’s Room.

One of my primary concerns is how grief is being medicalized in our society, as is reflected in the language we use to define aspects of the grieving process. We talk of “symptoms” as if it is an illness, from which one recovers. I am advocating a change in the language  we use to see mourning behavior in a more normal context. We all need to be experts as we face this universal fact of life.

Current Projects

I will continue my research at the Children’s Room to learn why mutual help experiences are so effective with the bereaved. I will expand the study population to include other settings. The key question is what is it about meeting others like oneself that aides in accommodating to the death and the changes in the lives of the bereaved.

Representative Publications

Silverman, Phyllis R. and Kelly, Madelyn. A Parent’s Guide to Raising Grieving Children: Rebuilding Your Family After The Death of a Loved One. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Silverman, Phyllis. Widow to Widow: How the Bereaved help Each Other. New York: Bruner- Maizel, 2004.