Dr. Donna Gaffney has long addressed trauma, loss and grief in the lives of adults, children and their families. As a psychotherapist she has counseled young people in the aftermath of individual tragedies and national disasters such as the Challenger explosion, the Pan Am 103 crash, and Hurricane Katrina. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 Donna was a member of the New Jersey Traumatic Loss Coalition and the State of NJ Disaster Mental Health Services, working with communities, families and professionals. Donna served on the Families of September 11 advisory board, facilitating one of the first online support groups for family members affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Much of Donna’s work takes place in communities and school systems. She integrates literature, film and theater in her practice and educational programs; curating appropriate materials and writing discussion guides for children’s and young adult literature, film and theater. Donna created and administered the AAUW-funded bibliotherapy program "Growing Heroines” at one of New York City’s largest elementary schools to focus on the issues of trauma and loss facing young girls in urban communities. She has written teaching/discussion guides for young adult books (911: The Book of Help and Breath to Breath). Donna has also developed educational guides for documentaries, Rebirth and The Second Day. In 2005 Donna worked with New York Reads Together to bring Laurie Halse Anderson’s book "Speak" to high school teachers and students in New York City. In preparation of the ten year commemoration of September 11th, she was an advisor to The New York Council for the Humanities’ 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance Community Conversation program, in which she wrote facilitator tips and parent guides for the children’s books in the program. She is on the advisory board of The Shared Grief Project, writing and supervising the development of discussion guides for the video narratives.
In her work at Project Rebirth Donna initiated and developed educational materials and led workshops based on the Peabody Award winning documentary Rebirth and its nine short films. Through Project Rebirth, she assisted in the development of the first Project Rebirth-Ride 2 Recovery Women’s Initiative for active duty women and veterans. Donna is a member of the Expert Panel on Military and Veterans Health at the American Academy of Nursing.
In addition to academic publications, Donna is the author of The Seasons of Grief, Helping Children Grow Through Loss. She has a long history in classroom, experiential and online education, having taught and developed programs at the International Trauma Studies Program, Columbia and Seton Hall Universities. Donna holds masters degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University and Rutgers University and earned her doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania. Her post-doctoral work includes the Prudential Fellowship for Children and the News at Columbia Journalism School and the International Trauma Studies Program. Donna’s new book, Courageous Well-Being for Nurses: Strategies for Renewal, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press September 2023.