Friday, March 16, 2012

Coping with Losses

Our new bereavement group started last week. I know I’m not supposed to say this but it is one of my favorite groups! In the first session, I was shocked to see how open the students were in speaking about people they had lost.  Like one of our fifth graders, Samantha.  Her 17 year old sister was recently shot and killed.  Samantha was very close to her sister and her death is extremely hard for her to understand. While she didn’t know all the details about the shooting, I was still surprised how open she was about the event and her feelings at our first group meeting. I admire her bravery so much! Being an adult, I still find it hard to cope with death, but to grieve at such a young age (and for someone so young and close to her)—I find it hard to imagine.

Not only do I enjoy this group of students, but I also feel our Bereavement Groups is one of our most effective. Partnership with Children has a great curriculum that teaches students the five stages of grieving—denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance—and how to cope with each. By verbalizing and explaining each stage to the students, they are better able to understand what they’re feeling.

One challenge I’ve come across in recruiting students to our Bereavement Group is that parents are reluctant to sign our consent form.  Living in a very poor and dangerous area, many of the deaths our students have to cope with are not due to natural causes. Parents are often fearful that if they’re child participates in the group and starts to open up, details of the deaths could come out that may put the student or family in danger. On the other hand, grieving over a loss is a very important part of life. It becomes a delicate balance of what the child is feeling and how to help them versus the dangers of the outside world.