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Subject: Erna Furman, 76, Expert on Grief in Children

August 9
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Date Posted: October 01, 2002 1:44:45 EDT

Erna Furman, an expert on grief in children and a child psychoanalyst who helped develop a teamwork therapy involving teachers, parents and therapists, died on Aug. 9 in Cleveland. She was 76.

The cause was lung cancer, said a spokeswoman for the Hanna Perkins Center for Child Development, where she worked for about 50 years.

The Perkins Center used psychoanalytic ideas to help children deal with emotional problems and incorporated the idea of team treatment, which helped parents understand children's actions.

Mrs. Furman wrote, edited and contributed to books based on research at the center.

The book "A Child's Parent Dies: Studies in Childhood Bereavement," which she worked on with the psychoanalyst Dr. Anna Freud in the 1970's, challenged the idea that children who lose a parent do not need the same attention that adults do. She showed that even toddlers can be helped to mourn a parent. The work won the American Medical Writers Association Book Award in 1975.

Mrs. Furman's book "Toddlers and Their Mothers" describes her findings from a 1980's research project on the importance of the mother-child relationship, particularly in the second and third years of life.

Mrs. Furman was born Erna Mary Poppe in Vienna on June 14, 1926. In 1938, her family fled to Czechoslovakia to escape the Nazis. Four years later, however, she was sent to the Terezin concentration camp, near Prague.

While there, she kept a journal and drew portraits of other captives, many of them children whom she befriended and helped care for. Some of her drawings were later exhibited, to critical acclaim, in museums, including ones in Tokyo and Los Angeles.

Mrs. Furman, who was educated at the Academy of Commerce in Prague, came to the United States in the late 1940's. She received many honors for her contributions to child psychoanalysis and was made an honorary member of the American Psychoanalytic Association in 1999.

Dr. Robert Furman, her husband of 48 years and her colleague, died Sept. 21 at 78. He was known for helping develop the Hannah Perkins Center and the Cleveland Center for Research in Child Development. He was the first director of the Hannah Perkins Center.

"In many ways, it was the couple together, Dr. and Mrs. Furman, who made the Hannah Perkins Center what it is today," said Barbara Streeter, the center's therapy director.

The Furmans are survived by two daughters, Lydia Furman Peter of Cleveland and Tanya Furman Larson of State College, Pa.; and three grandchildren.

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