Resolving Childhood Trauma with Nancy Rappaport, M.D.

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At the age of four Nancy Rappaport lost her mother to suicide. More than thirty years later, as she held her own infant daughter in her arms, she knew she must revisit that early loss, and resolve the trauma that had haunted her for decades. Her journey led to revelations that now inform her work as a psychiatrist, as she helps her patients resolve childhood trauma of all kinds. Her insights help us understand the needs of children suffering great loss, and also guide us to gently revisit the various losses each of us has inevitably faced along the way. Dr. Rappaport explains, "There are implicit rules in families about how you operate. Children are remarkably protective of their parents, and may sense that somehow talking about the loss is an act of betrayal. It's not, sometimes, until you're an adult that you can look back, or sometimes if you have therapy or you do a lot of journal writing, that you can be reflective about the choices you're making, and how you want to communicate." The exploration, she tells us, can lead to a renewed connection with a departed family member, and deepen relationships with those who remain. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Nancy Rappaport, M.D. is assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and since 1993 has been an attending child and adolescent psychiatrist for the Cambridge public schools.

She is the author of numerous peer-reviewed articles in professional journals, and the book:

To learn more about the work of Nancy Rappaport go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • How you can talk to a child about suicide
  • How you can comfort someone dealing with a loss from suicide
  • Why it's so difficult to talk about a loved one's suicide
  • What you need to know about siblings who are coping with trauma
  • What you can do to ease your own exploration of an old trauma
Host: Justine Willis Toms     Interview Date: 3/7/2010      Program Number: 3345