GOOD GRIEF! FOR TEACHERS AND LEADERS OF YOUNG PEOPLE

Do you remember Charlie Brown’s typical comment?  “Good Grief!”

Often there is nothing good in the cause for our grief.  But we do need to grieve  well.

In the past few days two young men whose lives touched or were touched by Copiah Academy, AKA Copiah Educational Foundation lost their lives.

These are reminders for those who teach and guide young people in  coping with critical incidents.

These are ideas are taken from my background as a licensed marriage and family counselor in debriefing critical incidents at the workplace.

Many young people do not know how to cope with the death of someone young .  Some will have experience the loss of a grandparent or other relative.  Somehow, the death of another young person shocks  or causes  one to realize his or her own mortality;  he loses for a while his false sense of invincibility.

As you give opportunity to students to process the grief as a group, notice those who lack words or emotions.  Their processing skills may be undeveloped, and they look to you to coach them into this hurtful incident.

Key questions to ask :

  1.  Do  you need to talk about________________(Note:  Every teacher  is not necessarily equipped to handle the emotions associated with sudden loss.  If the students do not respond, you may model your responses by answering these questions for you.  You may prime the pump by asking mature students to answer questions.  Females may be the best choice as many of them are more comfortable with emotional depth.) If there is no participation, tell about the effect on you.
  2. How did you hear about________?  or When did you first become aware of ________?Each young person should be able to answer this because it is safe, objective, and not inquiring about an emotion.For the next part, tell them:  Don’t share if you are not comfortable.
  3. Have you ever had similar times of sudden loss?  If so, please tell us about it/them. (If no one acknowledges this,  attempt to share your experience.)
  4.  What or who helped you to get through this experience? How did you cope in the past?  (Suggest those in your community of helpers that are sources–pastors, youth leaders, parents. professional counselors)

All reactions to loss are normal; “An abnormal response to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”

Some reactions include

  • depressed mood;
  • denial of feelings; fatigue and tiredness;
  • an insistence that things return to normal;
  • a questioning of God’s role in the incident; difficulty concentrating;
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt–even a feeling that it would be better if he or she had experienced this;
  • thoughts of their own death/loss;
  • anger against the young victim;
  • blaming of those responsible for any contrary condition that played a part in the loss;
  • disruption of sleeping and eating patterns; nightmares.
  • The important part to note is that while these reactions are normal in the present, it is not healthy for these reactions to continue to recur.

Behaviors to avoid:

  • Hurting others or self in your anger.
  • Use of unhealthful behaviors, including food, alcohol,or other drugs

Practices that promote healing

  • Talking with others and expressing how you feel
  • Do not withdraw form others
  • Do things that help you feel good and allow you to have a sense of self-control
  • Eat properly and regularly
  • Exercise and get good nutrition
  • Give your mind “vacations” from the overwhelming shock and processing–do enjoyable activities or participate in healthful hobbies that allow you to take your mind off the incident
  • Limit caffeine
  • If you have sleeping difficulty, get up and write out your thoughts or get up and do something constructive
  • Write letters to victim, to family members or ones very close to victim, to self
  • Use spiritual resources
  • Participate in rituals (Set up a table or bulletin board, if appropriate, to allow creation of a memorial)–this includes the visitation wake and the funeral
  • Do not make rash or impulsive decisions–if you have a good idea, include others, particularly level-headed ones
  • Be patient with yourself as you work through grieving process
  • Know that the news of similar incidents can stimulate your own feelings of loss
  • Avoid personalizing or taking responsibility for how others respond to this incident–each person’s response is unique and personal
  • Ask for support
  • It’s okay to cry!!!!!!
  • Support others as you are able.
  • Work toward accepting the event and coming to a sense of peace about the consequences

You may call me if you need or want additional help

Dot Day 601 892-3614      

Pathways Christian Counseling 601 894 2024

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About Dot Ainsworth Day

After 25 years in the classroom as an English teacher and over twenty years as a family therapist, I am confined to home with a muscular dystrophy and have begun to write: MEMORIES OF THE SHARECROPPER'S FAMILY, published on​ February 27 with a much-corrected second edition due November 1. I hope you enjoy learning about more Mississippi writers and their work. THAT'S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR In writing process: BACK WHEN: A Taste for Murder
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