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Compassionate Connections: Fall 2021 Teacher Newsletter

Compassionate Connections: Fall 2021 Teacher Newsletter

Grief in my Backpack

We are excited to share with you that we are in the process of developing a new and more extensive school resource which will replace our Good Grief: Supporting the Grieving Student publication. This new resource will include, information about grief and how it shows up; how to support grieving students; creating compassionate classrooms; and some suggestions of protocols and processes to respond to news of illness or death in the school. It will feature stories through images, writing, videos, etc. The Grief in my Backpack will be an online resource. We will also have a printed quick reference guide available. In March 2021, we sought your input as to what you needed and wished for to better support grieving students. These surveys were sent to school personnel in different school districts in Alberta. We are pleased to report that 63 of you responded to our survey and took the time to write comments to give us more information. Thank you! … And the survey said… 78% of you responded Not Much, Little or Somewhat to the question To what extent do you feel your school has the resources, support, protocols and procedures to respond to a death in the school community? 74% of you responded Not Much, Little or Somewhat to the question To what degree do you feel equipped to respond to a grieving student? You indicated that the following resource components would be helpful:
  • Grief theory and how grief shows up
  • Attending to grieving families
  • Supporting grieving students
  • Compassionate classrooms
  • Video and audio recordings
  • Activity ideas and handouts
  • Resources such as books and movies
  • Printed materials
  • Protocols and procedures
You shared that the following have been or could be barriers for you in responding to a student who is experiencing grief:
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Not confident I would know what to do
  • Worried about what would come up and not being able to deal with it
  • Worried I will make things worse
  • Not having adequate time
The respondents included: teachers, school counsellors, school administrators, family support workers, educational support staff, secretary, and “other” roles. You can be a part of our Grief in my Backpack resource. Email us at consult@childrensgriefcentre.ca with a story you want to share with us about supporting a grieving students, questions or requests. Follow us on social media for information on our programs and services, education sessions, resources and developments.  You can find us on Instagram & Twitter.

When Grief Goes to School

The past 18 months have taken a toll on all of us. The Covid-10 pandemic has impacted us at all levels: from the physiological threat of being sick or dying from the virus to the psychological stress and anxiety and the social isolation we experienced during lockdowns and restrictions. Whether we have lost family members or friends, relationships, confidence, opportunities or sense of control over our world and the world in general, we are all experiencing grief. Yes, grief is a normal response to loss. The world as we knew it has changed and it has changed us too. As you head back into the classroom environment, you and your students may feel a sense of heaviness and uncertainty. The tasks that were a normal part of everyday may feel more challenging and you may struggle to focus. As annoying and disruptive as it is, it is also normal. Being “in this together” can help us through the difficult days. After months of on and off isolation and limited contact with others, we can celebrate being together again and use this sense of community to feel stronger. Here are five things you can do to attend to yourself and your students: Be kind to yourselves
  • It’s normal for our body and mind to struggle a bit with all the changes. We’re not back to normal, we’re rediscovering the world and exploring how we function within it.
  • Move your body, take deep breaths, get lots of rest, and drink plenty of water – this helps your body and your mind. It’s good as a response to stress and also a good practice to help prevent the impact of stress.
Be kind to each other
  • Offering kindness and compassion for each student is a gift that keeps giving. Considering that each has their own unique experience and ways of responding is key.
  Create opportunities to share
  • One of the greatest struggles we all face is feeling isolated and alone. Offering opportunities to normalize that we each struggle with different things allows us to truly see one another and feel connected to one another.
  • Explore things you can do individually and as a class to soothe tired brains and stressed bodies. We know that when we feel stressed/tired/overwhelmed, lights seem brighter, sounds appear louder and everything is just a little more challenging. Consider dimming the lights in the classroom once or twice a day and have everyone speak in hushed tones. Include stretching as part of your routine to feel stress and power and resilience in your bodies.
Look for change in behaviours
  • Pay attention to changes in behaviour and attitude as signs of increasing struggles in your students. Ask a colleague and parents if they have noticed similar changes. Be curious: tell the child you’ve noticed some changes (give examples without labelling the behaviour) and ask them about why. A child may not respond in the moment, but they will know that they can come to you in the future if they want to talk or need your support.
Seek additional supports
  • If you are concerned about a child or are unsure, connect with their parents and discuss the possibility of connecting the family with additional supports.
We are currently working on a new and exciting school resource Grief in my Backpack, which we’ll be launching at Teachers’ Convention in early 2022.  You can also find more information and resources on our website www.childrensgriefcentre.ca

Parent Lunch & Learn Series

We are committed to providing the right support, in the right way, at the right time. For some families the right support may be individual or family counselling during a life-threatening illness or after a death; for others it may be attending a structured support group. We have also heard from many parents that they would appreciate brief, concrete, direct and accessible information as they navigate new situations with their grief and their children’s grief. Our new Lunch & Learns Series is designed to meet these needs. The Parent Lunch & Learn Series allows us to:
  • be responsive to parents with specific questions (individuals can sign up on Eventbrite to attend the live event)
  • be accessible to parents unable to access or uninterested in counselling services (we will record the L&L and save the recordings on our website)
  • share pragmatic, concrete information and resources to address specific questions and topics we know most parents/caregivers are navigating while parenting a child who is grieving.
  • be collaborative as we partner with other agencies to bring their expertise to parents who are grieving
  • provide a resource people can return to or share with others in their life who would benefit from the information
  • shrink the feelings of isolation by creating a space where grief concerns can be shared, heard and responded to in honouring ways.
  • create informal sense of community even for those who are watching recorded conversation. Knowing others have the same questions or struggles is normalizing and less isolating.
  • be fluid to address current issues that arise in community or culture (impact of Covid on grieving teens, for example).
Here are the dates and topics: You can find more information on our Parent Lunch & Learn web page.
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