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Helen Harris, Ed.D. - Baylor University . Waco, TX, US

Helen Harris, Ed.D. Helen Harris, Ed.D.

Associate Professor, Diana R. Garland School of Social Work | Baylor University


Expert on grief and social relations, redefining the intersection of loss and religiosity






Dr. Helen Harris on Grief and Supporting Loved Ones During the Holidays



Helen Harris came to Waco to begin the first hospice in Waco. She has served as a social worker and bereavement coordinator for Hillcrest Community Hospice, where she was the first director of the program. Since coming to Baylor in 1997, she has continued to work with hospice by volunteering with Providence Hospice and by providing volunteer training for several area hospices.

She is a member of the Military Child Education Coalition, the National Alliance for Grieving Children and the Association for Death Education.

Dr. Harris was honored as a "Woman of Distinction" by Girl Scouts of America, and in 2013, was named Outstanding Faculty: Lecturer for Baylor University. She is also a Faculty Fellow for the University and Academy of Teaching of Learning.

Dr. Harris served as a social worker at the Methodist Children's Home and at South Texas Children's Home, where she developed the first independent living program and directed the foster care program. Before joining the School of Social Work faculty, she taught adjunctively for six years in Baylor's Health Education Department.

Dr Harris works in hospice and bereavement which includes 13 years of work experience and an additional 15 years of volunteer experience. Most recently she is working with a local hospice and with my church doing counseling with persons with complicated grief.

She is married to Don Harris; they are the parents of Daniel and Beth.

Industry Expertise (7)

Social Services


Writing and Editing


Public Policy

Health Care - Services

Program Development

Areas of Expertise (8)

Grief and Cognition in Children

Grief and Cognition in Adults

Trauma Loss and Grief

Current Applications of the Work of Alan Keith-Lucas

Faith and Adoption

Grieving Children and ADHD

Cognition and Grief in Older Adults

Bereavement Assessment Across the Five Dimensions of Grief: Social, Spiritual, Physical, Emotional, and Cognitive

Accomplishments (2)

Woman of Distinction (professional)


Awarded by Girl Scouts of America

Outstanding Faculty: Lecturer (professional)


Awarded by Baylor University

Education (3)

University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Belton: Ed.D., Education 2011

Our Lady of the Lake University San Antonio: MSW 1979

Mary Hardin-Baylor College: B.A., Sociology/Behavioral Sciences 1975

Affiliations (4)

  • Association for Death Education and Counseling : Committee Member for Webinar Offerings
  • Hospice Foundation of America : Member
  • National Alliance for Grieving Children : Member
  • International Association of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing : Member

Media Appearances (8)

What to Write in a Sympathy Card to Offer Meaningful Support

The Pioneer Woman  online


Helen Harris, EdD, associate professor in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, explains what to write in a sympathy card to a friend, relative or coworker grieving the death of a loved one.

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Mental health care in Waco joins shift to online as all adapt to new normal

Waco Tribune-Herald  print


Baylor faculty members Bill Hoy, D.Min., Helen Harris, Ed.D., Wade Rowatt, Ph.D., and Jeff Levin, Ph.D., are included in this article about how mental health professionals are turning to technology to help their clients from a distance.

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My Friend Just Lost Her Job. How Do I Respond?

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


For the week ending March 21, a record 3.28 million workers applied for unemployment benefits, a result of the sweeping economic consequences of COVID-19, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Labor. Helen Harris, Ed.D., associate professor in Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, says one key to helping others is to imagine changing places with them – putting yourself in their position – and being the person you’d hope they’d be if the tables were turned.

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Baylor Scott & White Hospice to mark 35 years as 1st in area

Waco Today  print


Baylor social work professor Helen Harris, Ed.D., was the first hospice coordinator in Waco with Hillcrest Community Hospice, which began in 1985 and is marking 35 years of caring for and comforting patients approaching their last days.

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Tips to Help Those Grieving with Loss

KXXV-TV (Waco, Temple, Killeen/ABC)  tv


Helen Harris, Ed.D., associate professor in Baylor’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, is an expert on grief. In this conversation with Ann Harder, host of Central Texas Living, Harris discusses the grieving process – specifically how people can interact with others who are experiencing grief following the loss of a loved one. “Because we don’t want to say the wrong thing, sometimes we’re just silent, and people really feel very alone,” she explained. “I think it’s important to acknowledge that something really hard has happened and that you’re aware of it.”

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To Help Someone Grieving at the Holidays, Avoid Platitudes, Experts Say

Baptist News Global  


That’s because the grieving process is connected to a person’s physical, emotional and even spiritual makeup, said bereavement expert Helen Harris, an assistant professor in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University...

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Commentary: Helping those who have lost loved ones this Christmas

The Baptist Standard  


Grief expert Helen Harris, assistant professor in Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, shares some insights about long-term grief and how to approach others who are hurting during the holidays...

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The Empty Chair at the Holiday Table: Helpful Ways to Interact with Someone Grieving the Loss of a Loved One

Baylor University  


There are ways that are more helpful and ways that are less helpful to approach a grieving person, said grief expert Helen Harris, Ed.D., assistant professor in Baylor University’s School of Social Work. “There are so many things that folks say that are not helpful, mostly when we tell people what to do, what to believe and how not to feel,” Harris said. “Examples are: ‘God needed another angel’ or ‘At least you had him for x-amount of years’ or ‘You shouldn’t feel sad. He isn’t suffering anymore.’...

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Answers (1)

How long does it take to adjust to the loss of a loved one?

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Articles (5)

The intersectionality of spirituality, culture, & aging

Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging

2017 Counselors practice with older adults whose religion and spirituality may be factors in assessment and treatment. The DSM-5 includes religion and spirituality as part of pathology or culture. This approach is supported in counselor education. Religion as a cultural derivative only reflects the human aspect of religion, not including a client’s perception of divine actions possibly beyond the human experience, i.e., a miracle. How does the clinician discern if a client’s experience reflects pathology or the possibility of some sort of miracle? This article includes strengths and limitations of a cultural definition of religious and spiritual experience with case applications.

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Lessons from the vertical limit: Valuing older adults

Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Research

2016 What is the value of a life? Many older adults see it as diminishing in a world where new is better and old is disposable. The cultural rhetoric can be discouraging as the news of threatening Social Security and Medicare long term solvency crisis suggests that older adults, specifically Baby Boomers, are an economic liability.

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Cognition in adult bereavement: Preliminary findings from five hospice bereavement focus groups

Journal of Social Work in End-of-Life & Palliative Care

2015 Grief is an experience of both common and unique responses. Grief affects people in various ways including emotionally, cognitively, socially, physically, and spiritually. Little has been published on the cognitive domain of loss affecting attention, and concentration of bereaved adults. This qualitative study explored these effects among adults in one hospice bereavement program in Central Texas. Five focus groups included facilitated bereavement topical conversations resulting in descriptions of memory, concentration, and attention deficits after loss. These results suggested that participation in bereavement programming may normalize the experience facilitating cognitive task accomplishment. Referrals for bereavement care may be appropriate in order to facilitate equilibrium in individual's lives following a significant death. KEYWORDS: attention, bereavement, concentration, grief, memory

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Much to do about protest: The Keith-Lucas theory for mourning

Social Work & Christianity: An International Journal

2015 There is an abundance of theoretical models of loss and grief beginning with Sigmund Freud's theory of melancholia and mourning to more recent theory about anticipated grief and disenfranchised grief. This article presents a theoretical model created by Alan Keith-Lucas more than 20 years ago and compares and contrasts the model with the Kübler-Ross stages of grief model, Worden's tasks of mourning, and Stroebe and Schut's dual process model. The author addresses additional models including Corr's dimensions of grief, Parkes' stages of bereavement, and Rando's six "Rs" of grief. The Keith-Lucas model provides a significant addition to the literature with a focus on the role of protest, i.e., the expression of negative emotion, in achieving mastery and avoiding detachment and despair. The model provides readers with specific methods for assisting the bereaved in developing skills and resilience for healing and for helping others in the future.

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Learning to give voice in ministry to persons with dementia: Student monologues

Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging

2015 As the population of older adults increases, the need for clergy and other professionals to work with older adults increases as well. Students are often unfamiliar with the challenges faced by persons with dementia and can benefit from opportunities to hear narratives that give voice to the dementia experience. Monologues are an effective learning methodology to engage students and ministers to prepare to work with older adults with dementia, sensitizing them to the struggles of this challenging illness. This article includes rationale and a brief examination of practice literature related to learning applications using monologue and guidelines for classroom application in preparing students, ministers, and others for work with older adults with dementia

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