Academy of Human Development

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UEN No/CPE Reg No/ GST Reg No: 199900986N
(Reg. Period: 19 May 2020 to 20 May 2024)

Family-Focused Grief Therapy for Tragic Loss: A Clinician's Toolbox


How we grieve is a function of who we are, who we lose, and how we lose them. And who we are is an expression of how we are positioned within families, communities, and cultures, each of which embodies implicit “feeling rules” for what constitutes “proper” grief, its public expression, and how best to adapt to loss in the family system. In the case of traumatic deaths in particular, however, differences in how different family members mourn and how they display this grief in the social world can be laid bare, complicating their mutual understanding and support when these responses are most needed. This 2-day workshop provides a theory-based framework for conceptualizing family systems in bereavement, introducing such processes as disenfranchised grief, emotional shockwaves, relational coregulation and mirroring, and provides hands-on experience with relevant assessment and therapeutic techniques. Learners will have an opportunity to reflect on the relation between their own family experiences and their personal grieving styles, evaluate family members’ perception of social support for meaning making in loss, and implement both reflective and dialogical procedures for taking perspective on the positions of self and others in the relational network and promoting their transformation.


Day 1 (AM):

  • Conceptualize the impact of grief in the family system, using concepts of emotional shockwaves and cultural factors in grieving;
  • Define the concept of grieving styles and two major dimensions that distinguish them; and
  • Practice use of the Grieving Styles Grid as a non-threatening assessment of divergent ways of adapting to bereavement. 

Day 1 (PM):

  • Describe the concept of disenfranchised grief and its impact on mourners;
  • Practice use of the SMILES to assess two crucial dimensions of the response to mourners and their grief on the part of the family and social system; and
  • Develop interventions to facilitate greater levels of social support for mourners, particularly those whose losses are violent, non-normative and subject to disenfranchisement.

Day 2 (AM):

  • Define the concept of internalized other interviews and possible contexts for its use in grief therapy;
  • Practice use of this distinctive relational intervention with individuals or dyads in a family system; and
  • Discuss the effects in client families and consider what further therapeutic work it can make possible based on the experience of the interview.

Day 2 (PM):

  • Describe the relevance of Dialogical Self Theory in conceptualizing the self in the context of significant relationships to relevant others, including the deceased;
  • Apply Composition Work (CW) to access, differentiate and symbolize a variety of self-aspects and feelings involved in adapting to traumatic transition and loss; and
  • Facilitate a dialogue between a variety of self-aspects, create possible shifts in the broader family system as a function of the loss and promote their adaptive realignment.


  • Day 1 (AM) – Grieving Styles: Who We Are, How We Grieve This module introduces key concepts for understanding the systemic impact of tragic loss, focusing especially on the concept of grieving styles, reflecting our personal manner of mourning, and whether it is in conformity or conflict with the dominant styles of others in our family, social circle, or broader culture. As a form of experiential learning we will participate in a group exercise using the Grieving Styles Grid to identify how each of us approaches loss, the factors that contributed to our own characteristic response to bereavement, how concordant or discordant we are with the grieving style of others in our family system, and whether our own way of experiencing and expressing grief is stable or changing. Working in affinity groups of others who share key features of our style, we will then have a chance to describe our unique values and tendencies as grievers with other groups differing in their orientation, and in so doing gain a deeper respect for grieving styles unlike our own, whether in our families, our social worlds, or across cultures.

  • Day 1 (PM) – Disenfranchised Grief: Assessing Social Validation & Invalidation in the Wake of Loss While grief is often viewed as an intimately personal process that follows a significant loss, when it is viewed through the wide-angle lens of a systemic view, it is equally an intricately social process that occur betweenany given mourner and others in the family and broader network. This module explores the interface of the self and social system and introduces the Social Meaning In Life Events Scale (SMILES), a clinically useful tool for assessing the extent of validation or invalidation experienced by mourners in their family and social worlds. The SMILES is the first validated measure of what Kenneth Doka refers to as disenfranchised grief, where the mourners themselves or their unique ways of grieving are unrecognized, judged, or stigmatized by others in the family, community or culture. Such social processes of derogation or marginalization can occur in relation to many deaths, but are especially common when the deaths involve complicated issues of human intention, as in suicide, homicide or overdose, creating a toxic context in which mourners struggle alone for a meaning they cannot find in dialogue with others. Conversely, social support in making sense of the death and themselves in light of it can provide a healing context that promotes gradual growth through grief. It is therefore important for therapists to work with clients, as well as their family and social systems whenever possible, to better validate their experience and support them in finding greater meaning in senseless loss.

  • Day 2 (AM) – Interviewing the Internalized Others: Fostering Empathic Understanding in Family Systems Although families are in a sense the natural groups in which grief is most commonly felt, it can be difficult to work with them as systems or subsystems when different family members grieve and cope in different ways. In such cases, the relational system becomes the focus of therapy as much as members’ responses to loss per se. This module introduces the technique of internalized other interviewing, a practice originating in narrative therapy to invite clients in a family to step into the perspective of another whose reality, meanings and emotions differ significantly from their own. It is especially helpful in working with bereaved couples contending differently with the loss of a child, as well as in helping parents struggling with an adolescent whose perspective and resulting emotion expression and behaviors are a source of perplexity or anger. We will briefly sketch the use of this technique in both contexts and then practice its use in small groups, with learners playing the parts of both family members and their therapists.

  • Day 2 (PM) – Re-Composing the Self and System: Composition Work in the Wake of Tragic Loss As the bereaved struggle to find new meaning and re-construct their lives following devastating loss, they can benefit from exploring how this major life transition has shifted or shattered their personal and relational identity, and from projecting a new configuration of a changed self in a similarly reconfigured family and social system. Doing so can be particularly crucial when the death of a significant person is traumatic, as through suicide, homicide, fatal accident, overdose or natural disaster, leaving survivors struggling to make sense of who they are as individuals and as a family in its wake. This module introduces Composition Work, a flexible method for visualizing one’s “community of self” which is grounded in the Dialogical Self Theory of Hubert Hermans, tracing transformations in the system of relationships that constitute their personal and relational world in response to the loss, as well as exploring a possible composition of their own identity and life in an unanticipated future. Mourners are then better equipped to broaden their understanding of themselves in context, draw on somatic awareness of previously unvoiced aspects of self, and promote personal reconstruction in a changing constellation of post-loss identity.


Helping professionals like counsellors, social workers, therapists, psychologists, pastoral staff, community/outreach workers, befrienders/volunteers, and people who are keen in rendering grief support.


Participants who meet 80% class attendance will be awarded a Certificate of Completion by Portland Institute for Loss and Transition & Academy of Human Development.


This workshop is eligible to earn Credits for 2 Orientation Modules and 2 Techniques Modules towards to Certification in Grief Therapy as Meaning Reconstruction or Certification in Family-Focused Grief Therapy (FFGT) offered by the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition (PI), Portland, OR, United States. For certification enquiries, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Fees S$ (Before GST)

Course Fee (Regular)


Early Bird Rate  *Register and payment before 31 May 2023


Check out the other 2-day workshop on Grief Therapy for Traumatic Loss: Essential Interventions *Special Bundle Rate for both workshops at $1,800



Subsidies/ Funding for Company-Sponsored Applicant:

PCG pre-approved funding is for eligible staff/volunteers from NCSS member Agencies and MSF-funded Agencies. 

This course is PCG pre-approved at 45% funding per pax for Singaporeans/PR. (Ref No. PAS00003000, End date of approval: 8 Mar 2024)




Robert A. Neimeyer, Ph.D, is a Professor Emeritus of the Department of Psychology, University of Memphis, and maintains an active consulting and coaching practice.  He also directs the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition (, which provides online training internationally in grief therapy. Neimeyer has published 33 books, including the Handbook of Grief Therapies and New Techniques of Grief Therapy: Bereavement and Beyond, and serves as Editor of the journal Death Studies. The author of over 600 articles and book chapters and a frequent workshop presenter, he is currently working to advance a more adequate theory of grieving as a meaning-making process. Neimeyer served as President of the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) and Chair of the International Work Group for Death, Dying, & Bereavement.  In recognition of his scholarly contributions, he has been granted the Eminent Faculty Award by the University of Memphis, made a Fellow of the Clinical Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association, and given Lifetime Achievement Awards by both ADEC and the International Network on Personal Meaning. For more information, see:

Carolyn Ng, PsyD, FT, MMSAC, RegCLR,, maintains a private practice, Anchorage for Loss and Transition (, for training, supervision and therapy in Singapore, while also serving as an Associate Director of the Portland Institute.  Previously she served as Principal Counsellor with the Children’s Cancer Foundation in Singapore, specialising in cancer-related palliative care and bereavement counselling.  She is a master clinical member and approved supervisor with the Singapore Association for Counselling (SAC) and a Fellow in Thanatology with the Association of Death Education and Counselling (ADEC), USA, as well as a consultant to a cancer support and bereavement ministry in Sydney, Australia.  Dr Ng is trained in the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, USA, community crisis response by the National Organisation for Victim Assistance (NOVA), USA, as well as Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) by LivingWorks, Canada. She conducts training workshops and consultation on various topics, as invited by different organizations both in Singapore and other countries like Malaysia, Taiwan, Bhutan, Australia, Spain, Canada and United States over the years. Her recent writing concerns meaning-oriented narrative reconstruction with bereaved individuals and families in trauma, grief and loss, with an emphasis on conversational approaches for fostering new meaning and reintegration in life.


Download the registration form and send the completed copy to 

Mr Dave Goh

6593 5284

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Dr Carolyn Ng

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Course Schedule

Dates 31st July & 1st Aug 2023
Timing 9.00am - 5.00pm
Trainer(s) Dr Robert A. Neimeyer & Dr Carolyn Ng
Venue(s) Lifelong learning Institute