Friday, February 18, 2011

Sharing grief with students

In all my years teaching, helping children to deal with the death of a grandparent seemed the most natural thing I could imagine. We honoured our grandparents. I helped them write letters to grandparents, asking questions about their childhood, schooling, youthful lives. Then, when one of my grade 6's asked my help to write a eulogy for her famous grandfather, we all shared her grief in a positive and meaningful way. Having volunteered with an Expressive Arts Therapist I learned more about this aspect of expressing grief. Very therapeutic.

It is predictable that one of your students will lose a loved one. Worse, still, if it is a peer or your colleague. There are many ways to help your students.

1. Respect their needs to talk or to be silent.
2. Deal with the issues as they arise. Talk to the Trauma Response team if you have students who are directly affected.
3. Listen to their concerns.
4. Let them you know you are upset, too.
5. Model the means by which you deal with your grief.
6. Do not tell them the answers if you do not know the answers.
7. Clear up faulty misperceptions, if they arise. (During 9/11 kids were afraid to walk home.  Kids were afraid for their pets, relatives, etc.)
8. Have them talk to their parents about their feelings. Parents need to know.
9. Let them tell their stories. Draw pictures, create poems, write letters.
10. Make a fear box. Cut out pictures from newspapers & magazines that represent their fears.
11. Write down your fears. Assign them a number from 1 - 5. have them talk about these fears with their families.
12. Help others. Give a donation to one of the relief agencies. 

Helpful books for the Grieving Child:
• What Color is Death, Daddy? [PDF download]
An interactive book for children ages 3-7
• The Kaleidoscope of Grief: When Children Experience Death [PDF download]
Interactive books for Children ages 7 and up
• Kaleidoscope book En Español [PDF download]
A helpful brochures to help others understand how to help children
• Helping Grieving Children [PDF download]
Supporting the bereaved is a community responsibilty. Together, we can make a difference in the world!

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