Whitney Nelson, Ed.T., CSDS, is a native Vermonter, an Educational
Thanatologist, Sudden Death TraumaSpecialistTM
and director of Death
Education Consulting in Montpelier, Vermont. She is a nationally known
death and grief expert and lecturer who specializes in the biochemistry
of grief and how grief differs according to the manner of death.
thanatology spans over 25 years and ranges from
working for seven years as a civilian contract employee with the
Vermont State Police making death notifications and doing crisis
intervention for family members of the victims, to founding a hospice
that she directed for five years, as well as serving as hospice
director for a chain of nursing homes. In the course of her work with
the Vermont State Police, she developed the nation's first state police
Sudden Death Trauma ProgramTM
and trained all Vermont troopers in
dealing with sudden, unexpected death; death notification; body
viewing; dealing with survivor-victims; and coping with the troopers'
grief on and off the job. She also instructed at the Vermont Police
Throughout her career,
Franne has made over 400 sudden death
notifications with law enforcement and in hospital emergency
departments; created and carried out a five-year follow-up study of
1626 grieving survivors whose loved ones had died from expected, sudden
or sudden, unexpected death; and has hands-on experience with 542
terminally ill people.
awards for her work, including the 1994 National
Educator of the Year from the American College of Healthcare
Administrators, sharing the awards dais with Dr. C. Edward Koop, former
Surgeon General of the United States. She also received an award from
the Vermont Commissioner of Public Safety for her work with the Vermont
research and extensive involvement with death and grief led
her to create a unique grief paradigm that applies only to sudden
death. It also resulted in her identifying limitations inherent in the
Kubler-Ross five-stages of grief model as it pertains to expected
death. She not only discovered that the Kubler-Ross model is not
germane to sudden death, she modified and extended the Kubler-Ross
model as it applies to the terminally ill.
co-created an international training video on death and grief which
was broadcast over the Emergency Education Network and seen by over
350,000 people in Chile, Canada, Mexico, Ethiopia, the Caribbean Basin,
the South Pacific, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom,
Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, the Antarctic, Crete, Greece, Bahrain, Spain,
Bermuda, Argentina, Midway, Guam and the Philippines.
provided crisis intervention to the families of the Battleship
Iowa turret explosion victims, as well as to many schools and
communities. These particular cases have ranged from crisis
intervention for a
school and community after the murder of a beloved
suicides in the same high school in the Midwest, assisting
explaining death to youngsters, to assisting businesses in dealing with
deaths of employees.
instructed military Casualty Assistance Call Officers in the
do's and dont's of death notification, as well as trained hundreds of
police, fire and rescue in dealing with sudden death. Additionally, she
has lectured extensively to victim advocates, prosecutors, nursing home
hospital personnel, funeral directors, mental health professionals,
teachers, medical examiners, cemeterians, hospice workers, monument
dealers, physicians and human resource professionals, as well as to the
general public. Franne
has presented in Alabama, Arkansas,
Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota,
Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico,
New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee,
Texas, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.
Franne developed the first Sudden Death Trauma SpecialistTM
Certification program that addresses only the trauma associated with
death, as opposed to other types of trauma. She offers the four-day
certification program on the national level in Vermont and also on-site
to businesses and institutions nationwide.
Franne was commissioned by the United States Department of
Justice to write A Grief Guide For
Dealing With Sudden Death Trauma:
What To Expect When
Your Loved One Dies With No Good-bye,
as well as a
companion publication, A Handbook For
Advocates and Caregivers: Guiding
Step-By-Step Through the Aftermath of Sudden Death.
writes death and grief protocols for businesses and
institutions, addressing employee notification; the physical and
emotional aftermath of death; how to most effectively provide crisis
intervention and continuing bereavement support; how to ease transition
back to work; coping system-wide with grieving/traumatized employees;
preventing grief-driven, on-the-job injuries, and dealing with grieving
families of employees.
result of her research and experience, Franne is also writing a
comprehensive book on all aspects of death and grief.