Friday, September 21, 2018

Resources for Grieving Students

A recent tragedy afflicted our school just before school started this year.  A father murdered his two kids and then killed himself.  The kids were a year ahead of my son, and I don't think he knew them, but terrible things happen.

The school is providing counselors, but I started looking for some resources to put together for our PTA web-page, and while there are a lot of resources available, I didn't see any that compiled a lot of resources, so I'm doing that here as a public service.  (In the end I decided to publish this private, because I don't think the school wants the PTA to provide resources like this, as they should be referrring to CPS. But I'm a rogue, and I think more information is better than less, and perhaps this work will be beneficial to the larger community than just our school.)

God willing, you will never have to utilize the books and resources on this page, but just in case, here they are.

Articles and Resources

Michele Borba reprints a great article from Dr. Harold Koplewicz from the Child Mind Institute:

Education World, an online publication, has information from a school administrator's perspective. When Tragedy Strikes: What Schools Should Do

 This NY Times article, although written in 1992, has some pretty good advice, and shows that this is not a problem that started overnight.

This Washington Post article from 2015 also has some valuable tips.

Five Tips for Supporting Grieving Students from Edutopia.

Do's and Don'ts from the Dougy Center

One of the best resources I found was  The Dougy Center:  The National Center for Grieving Children and Families which has a lot of information.

These Do's and Don'ts are especially valuable, from their web page When Death Impacts Your School  They also have a number of tip sheets, and ways to start support groups.  If you need them, you should definitely check out their website.
  • DO listen. Grieving students need a safe, trusted adult who will listen to them
  • DO follow routines. Routines provide a sense of safety which is very comforting to the grieving student.
  • DO set limits. Just because students are grieving, doesn’t mean that the rules do not apply. When grieving, students may experience lapses in concentration or exhibit risk taking behavior. Setting clear limits provides a more secure and safer environment for everyone under these circumstances.
  • DO NOT suggest that the student has grieved long enough.
  • DO NOT indicate that the student should get over it and move on.
  • DO NOT act as if nothing has happened.
  • DO NOT say things like:
    - “It could be worse. You still have one brother.”
    - “I know how you feel.”
    - “You’ll be stronger because of this.”
  • DO NOT expect the student to complete all assignments on a timely basis.
I've also compiled a list of books that might be helpful.

Books for Kids about Tragedies and Grieving.

(Grades pre-3) A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret Holmes A gentle story for children who have witnessed any kind of violent or traumatic event, including homicide.
(Grades 1-8) After a Murder:  a Workbook for Grieving Kids by The Dougy Center This hands-on workbook helps children learn that they are not alone and how other children have coped.  Activities and word games normalize intense feelings and explain confusing actions of police, the media and the courts.
(Grades 3-7) The Boy Who Sat by the Window:  Helping Children Cope with Violence by Chris Loftis The story of a community’s shock after a random drive-by shooting of a small boy, told through the eyes of a classmate.
(Grades 1-5) Children Also Grieve:  Talking about Death and Healing by Linda Goldman  Children and adults will read this together.  Discusses loss and grief in general.  Includes excerpt on homicide.
(Grades 6-12) Just One Tear by K.L. Mahon The author, a 14-year old girl, created this short novel.  Written in diary format, it covers a two-month period of time in the life of a 13-year old boy whose father is shot and killed in front of him.
(Grades 3-8)  Reactions by Alison Salloum A workbook to help young people understand common reactions to the experience of trauma and grief.
(Grades 6-9) When Someone You Know has been Killed by Jay Schleifer An exceptional resource that speaks directly to youth who are suffering traumatic loss.

   Books for Adults about Grief and Children Grieving

A Grief Like No Other:  Surviving the Violent Death Of Someone You Love by Kathleen O’Hara The author shares her personal account of the murder of her college-age son and offers practical steps and stages for healing and overcoming grief following a violent death.
Breaking the Silence:  A Guide to Help Children with Complicated Grief by Linda Goldman This book provides specific ideas and techniques to work with children in various areas of complicated grief.
Coping With Traumatic Death:  Homicide by Bob Baugher & Lew Cox This book was devised to help you understand some of what to expect following the murder of a family member or friend.  It’s divided into sections – the first days, the first weeks, the first months, the first year and beyond.
The Forgiving Place:  Choosing Peace after Violent Trauma by Richard R. Grayton & Amrianne Williams The author’s wife was murdered in their home during a robbery.  This book concentrates on handling the emotional legacy of intentional violence.
No Time for Goodbyes:  Coping with Sorrow, Anger and Injustice after a Tragic Death by Janice Harris Lord This book offers understanding and insight into violent death.  Includes comments from survivors and offers practical information with legal and financial issues.
Retelling Violent Death by Edward K. Rynearson Offers a strategy for therapeutic retelling following the homicide, suicide or accidental death of a loved one.
What to Do When the Police Leave:  A Guide to the First Days of Traumatic Loss by Bill Jenkins A book filled with factual guidance vital to families suffering a traumatic loss.
When a Child Has Been Murdered:  Ways You Can Help the Grieving Parents by Bonnie Hunt Conrad A resource for those suffering the homicide of a child supporting an adult whose child has been murdered.
When Father Kills Mother:  Guiding Children through Trauma and Grief by Jean Harris-Hendricks, Dora Black & Tony Kaplan This second edition book shares information about the effects of psychological trauma and bereavement on children who have experienced the death of one parent at the hands of the other.

As I said above, I hope you never need these resources. But if you do, here they are. The final thing I'd say is that from my reading on this topic, grief hits different kids in different ways. If you think your kid is impacted by grief, consider talking to them or bringing them into see a professional.

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