Research Areas

Widowers Reactions to the Death of their Spouse; Children’s Reactions to the Death of a Parent 


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 R. Silverman

Phyllis R. Silverman

Phyllis R. 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

Working with the National Widowers Organization we are interviewing men to learn how they respond to the death of their spouse and what is helpful to them. Using qualitative methods of analysis we are documenting what changes take place in their lives, how they cope and what helps them. Susan Thomson, another scholar is my partner in this project. 

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.