SEU Dean Awarded Designation of Fellow in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement

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Lakeland, FL: Southeastern University’s dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Dr. Erica Sirrine, was recently awarded the designation of Fellow in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement by the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC). She became only the 15th person in the state of Florida to have earned this designation.

This is the highest advanced professional certification in the field of thanatology. Per ADEC, the Fellow in Thanatology “recognizes practitioners and educators in the discipline of death, dying, and bereavement, who have met specified knowledge requirements measured through a standardized testing process and who demonstrate advanced levels of competency in teaching, research and/or clinical practice through a professional portfolio.”

“I wanted to be a leader for my students for them to see that they can achieve these things in their careers too,” said Sirrine.

The Association for Death Education and Counseling is the primary professional organization for the field of thanatology for health science professionals in varying occupations. It is an inter-collaborative professional organization to look at the body of work on death, dying and bereavement.

“Loss is the one universal thing that we all will experience. Everyone has experienced loss in one way,” said Sirrine.

Sirrine’s interest in Thanatology began when she worked as an intern with people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.  She then went on to work in a hospital with pediatric patients and high-risk mothers. Sirrine saw many people hesitate to counsel families experiencing loss in the hospital, but she was not afraid of it, wanting to sit with the families and help them. Following her job in the hospital, she worked for Good Shepherd Hospice in Lakeland providing grief and bereavement counseling for children, adolescents and adults.

She continues to speak at seminars related to grief and bereavement, mainly for Professional Education Systems Inc. (PESI), a nonprofit organization for continuing education. She also authored, “Sammy’s Story,” written for young children explaining concepts of loss and how to handle grief.

Sirrine has a bachelor’s degree in social work from Florida State University, a master’s degree in social work from the University of Central Florida, and a Ph.D. in social work from the University of South Florida. She is also a licensed clinical social worker and qualified clinical supervisor in the state of Florida. Sirrine currently teaches a course on Death, Loss and Bereavement at Southeastern University.