Grief is an equalizer. It connects us all regardless of our age, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, birthplace, or country. It’s a profoundly human emotion that everyone will experience at some point in their lifetime. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, too many students are experiencing grief—or will experience grief in the coming school year.
Students can experience grief from a number of triggers. They may be grieving the loss of routine or their life before the pandemic. Or they may be grieving the death of someone in their community or family, such as a parent. As of February 2021, about 40,000 children had lost at least one parent to COVID-19. It’s estimated that for every 13 COVID-19-related deaths, a child lost a parent.
These students will be returning to school carrying more than backpacks. Grief will be weighing on them as they re-enter classrooms across America, where they’ll need help to manage this burden. As an educator, here are a few recommendations for how you can help lighten the load:
- Recognize that experiencing loss is traumatic.
Students may exhibit unusual behaviors such as emotional outbursts, withdrawal from school or friends, and fixation on death. Encourage students to experience and process their feelings. This can be done through creative assignments such as writing or art, or by talking with them after class. Employing strategies for a trauma-informed classroom can be highly beneficial for these students.
- Create space for them to connect with other grieving peers.
Grief is more manageable when you’re supported by a community. Because of the high mortality rates of COVID-19, it’s likely you’ll have multiple students who have lost a parent in your school or district. Create a support group or lunch table where students can be together and feel like their loss doesn’t make them alone.
- Acknowledge your students’ grief and ask them about their loss.
It’s often believed that talking about someone who’s died is upsetting to their living loved ones, but that’s not always the case. It can be deeply therapeutic for students to process their feelings through reliving memories. If a student is willing to share, ask them to tell you about the person they lost and hold space for them and their feelings as they do.
If your students need additional support with grief and loss, therapy can help them work through their feelings. Gaggle Therapy offers a flexible way for students to get free counseling by connecting them with professional help when they need it most. To learn more about Gaggle Therapy, reach out to us today. Your local Gaggle representative can help you find the right solution to support students in your district.