Phyllis Silverman 1927-2016: A reflection

phyllis silverman









Phyllis Rolfe Silverman 1927-2016: a reflection                                
It was with great sadness that I learned this morning of the death of Phyllis Silverman in her home city of Boston USA.  I was immediately brought back to the week of 9/11. The Annual HEBER conference was organised for All Hallows College in Dublin for Friday the 14th September 2001 and Phyllis was scheduled to present a one day workshop on “Never Too Young to Know: Death In Children’s Lives”.  All was arranged.  Then the Irish Government designated that Friday as our national day of mourning for those who had died in the terrorist attacks three days earlier. The organisers wondered about cancelling the workshop, but common sense prevailed and it was decided that having a workshop presented by Phyllis Silverman on the topic of Grief and Loss in Children was more than fitting on such a day.

For those of us who were privileged to be there she was inspirational. Her research work with William Worden in the Child Bereavement Study conducted in Boston in the 1980’s came alive and her work on the theory of Continuing Bonds as a process to accommodate our grief was well explained.  Her believe in the consideration of grief in children no matter how young -based on her work – was contagious.

Phyllis was a strong lady, with a wonderful intellect, she held a strong pride in her Jewish traditions and she presented her workshop with a clear message, which has continued to inspire many of us to the present day.

That weekend there were no flights in or out of the U.S.A.  Phyllis found herself stranded in Ireland. She need not have worried though, Irish hospitality kicked in and with Iris Murray’s guiding hand and Pat Wilson’s companionship she found herself experiencing an Irish welcome until she could safely board a flight for home the following week.

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go, some stay a while, leave footprints on our hearts and we are never quite the same”.  Phyllis was one of the latter, I think of her often as I work with the students on the Children and Loss programme in the Irish Hospice Foundation.  I recall our personal sharing with a smile in my heart.

To her husband Sam, her children and grandchildren may I extend sincere sympathy at this time and may they too in her legacy, continue a spiritual bond with her in their lives.

Ar Dheis De go raibh a h-anam uasal.


Brid Carroll. Chair Advisory Committee ICBN