SPMS “TRAIN YOUR BRAIN” COUNSELOR
This week we experienced the unthinkable and heartbreaking loss of a valuable member of our SPMS and South Pasadena community. As our community grieves, we may struggle with how to talk to and answer the questions our children have about death, grief and loss. We may struggle with our own grief, which can lead to additional challenges in processing and supporting our children. Some caregivers may have never engaged in discussions about death with their children, while others may have had to discuss painful losses.
Here are some things to consider when supporting children in processing grief and loss:
- Grief can look different for everyone. Not everyone cries but some do, and not everyone wants to talk about their feelings but others may. So, allow conversations and emotions to flow without ideas about how it “should” be or how it “should” look.
- Remind your child that you are there to listen and support, even if they don’t take you up on the offer. Remind them regularly that you are there, if they want to talk.
- It’s okay to cry in front of and with our children. My general rule of thumb is that I don’t want to cry louder or harder than them, so that I can stay in the role of supporting them and not the reverse.
- There is no timeline when it comes to grieving. A special occasion or a memory can trigger sudden feelings of grief and loss. This can happen after two days, two months, or at any time in life.
- Grief and loss are not something that we “get over.” It is a process that we work through, often over and over again, as we continue to experience life while adjusting to a life without our loved one. We may become accustomed to life without that person over time, but the pain of that loss never leaves us.
- Experiencing death can uncover old wounds around grief and loss. If this is the case, a child may need to process past losses, too.
- Experiencing death can uncover a child’s old or new fears around their mortality and that of their loved ones. Allow them to speak openly of those fears and validate their feelings.
- There is no need to have all the answers surrounding death. Part of coping with grief and loss is learning to accept that life has many uncertainties and death is perhaps the biggest uncertainty of all, which is why it’s so important to allow for open and honest communication rather than dismissing fears.
- When it feels right, allow space for recalling the good moments and encourage conversations that recall happy times and favorite memories of the deceased. Create a memory box, write a letter or play a favorite song. We want the positive memories to be the ones that last.
- If you are concerned about your child’s mental health at any point in the grieving process, seek professional help.
As the school social worker at SPMS, I have been deeply moved by the love, connection and commitment to supporting each other. Let’s please continue to keep our hearts open.
I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Principal Cheryl Busick, our PTA and the DUDES for being essential supporters of our Wellness Center, which made it possible for us to have a space to support our students at SPMS this week. Thank you also to Toby Banger and her therapy dogs, River, Cody and Ember, in providing emotional support to our students all year and especially this week.
For more resources on the topic of grief and loss, please visit the links below. If your child needs counseling support, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, your child’s counselor, or an administrator. Please also encourage your child to visit our Wellness Center at SPMS to access support, if needed, during the school day.