Play therapists inevitably work with traumatic death loss at some point in their careers. Unfortunately, most play therapists are not specialty-trained in traumatic loss, creating a treatment gap with this unique population. Although traditional methods of play therapy are empirically effective for traumatic death loss, adjustments in intake, toy selection, and termination can greatly enhance the therapeutic process. This article reviews the short- and long-term impacts of traumatic death loss, with a discussion of developmental processes and reactions to this painful experience. A detailed description of toy selection and traumatic play themes are discussed along with types of play demonstrated by traumatically bereaved children.
Identify toys and items which facilitate traumatic grief play.
Describe the developmental reactions to traumatic loss in children.
Integrate procedures into the play therapy treatment process (e.g., intake, termination) which support the unique needs of traumatically bereaved children.