Coping with Grief

You may have read my parent letter or heard the sad news from a friend.  Two of our 4th graders lost their mother yesterday.  I am not surprised by the immediate compassion and care our community has shown.  I know the generosity of the larger Willowbrook Community.

We held class meetings with 4th grade this morning after flag raising.  However, students at every grade level may be impacted.  Your children may come home and wish to share their feelings, ask questions, and want to talk.  Below are a few tips taken from the National Association of School Psychologists.

  • Be understanding and tolerant of common grief reactions which include: decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping, a decreased ability to concentrate, increased sadness, and social withdrawal.
  • Be simple and straightforward. Discuss death in developmentally appropriate terms.  Use words such as “death,” “die,” or “dying” in your conversations and avoid euphemisms such as “they went away,” “they are sleeping,” “departed,” and “passed away.”  Such euphemisms are abstract and may be confusing, especially for younger children.
  • Let children know that death is not contagious.  Although all human beings will die at some point, death is not something that can be “caught” and it is unusual for children to die.
  • Be brief and patient. Remember that you may have to answer the same question multiple times and repeat key information to ensure understanding.
  • Express your own feelings in an open, calm, and appropriate way that encourages children to share their feelings and grief.
  • Keep in mind that some children may have a difficult time expressing their feelings or may not feel comfortable talking.  Do not pressure them to talk. Some may prefer writing, drawing, listening to music, or playing a game instead of talking about their feelings.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me should you have any questions, concerns, or if we can be of help in supporting your children.  We have 2 excellent school psychologists available – Maggie Peters (mpeters@district30.org) and Megan Boarini (mboarini@district30.org).

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