Often your classroom is impacted by a death in a family, or in the community. If it is the death of a student, the impact is great. If it is the death of a family member, or grandparent, for example, there are many things a teacher must do. In the event of a teacher passing away, many will relive deaths of parents, or have to deal with older incidents.
When a teacher's colleague passes the event will be most difficult. In my previous school board, we had a colleague die suddenly of a boating accident. All of us felt the grief. Many schools helped this teacher's peers and teachers were dispatched to cover the classes in order for them to attend the funeral.
Children who have witnessed violence, whose families are impacted by trauma, divorce, moving, sudden death, all suffer grief. It is important to respect their response. Feelings are not bad, it is how we deal with these feelings that changes us.
- The first thing is to sit down with the children and talk about their fears. Some will want to talk. others will want to listen.
- Deal with issues as they arise. Talk to the Trauma Response team, which school boards have created across the province. They offer professional help.
- Listen to their concerns.
- Let them you you are upset, too.
- Model the means by which you deal with your grief, i.e., talking to others, crying, being honest about your feelings, which could include denial or anger.
- Do not tell the answers if you do not know them.
- Respect individual spiritual beliefs. Some answers must come from their families.
- Clear up faulty misperceptions, if they arise. (When I was teaching during 9/11 children became fearful and di not want to walk home. Children feared for their pets and relatives.)
- Let them tell their stories: Music/Art/Dance/Drama by drawing pictures, sand play, creating poems, writing letters.
- Make a fear box. Cut out pictures or words, from newspapers and magazines, that represent fears.
- Write down their fears (scribe for them if they cannot) and assign them a priority number and send this home so that families may discuss these issues.
- Help others. Fundraise and give donations to relief agencies, or causes, i.e., Cancer Society.