It seems impossible that the article below was written only a short time ago – a little over a month. As our community has faced yet another tragedy, I wanted to amend it for our current situation. We are made to be in community, and grief in a time of isolation can compound what we feel. It can also dull what we feel. Like all emotion, it is very individual. With that said, don’t be surprised if your student doesn’t seem as impacted by this as you think they should be. For many of our younger students, it may not feel real since they have been meeting remotely. It can be much easier to dismiss absence when the contact has been virtual.
Please remember students have been dealing with many kinds of loss lately – loss of their schedule, loss of spring sports, loss of time with peers, loss of their school building. These may all seem minor, but when compounded with a loss of life, the outpouring of emotion could be substantial. So if you think your student is overreacting, remember this might just be the outlet they needed to let all their emotions out. Use it as a way to talk with your student about this situation.
We don’t know God’s plans, but we do know His love and His goodness. Please continue to read below if you now find yourself or your student faced with feelings of grief and sadness.
Fondly, Mrs. Ussery 04/14/20
When tragedy and heartbreak descend upon our community it can seem difficult to know how to respond, but this past week our community HAS responded. It has responded with God’s love. It has responded with prayer and an outpouring of tears, memories, and even laughter. Our community has responded by holding one another up during this difficult time of mourning and reminiscing together. A school is an ideal place to witness grief in its many forms, and we have been quick to point out to students there is no one “right” way to grieve.
We know many families want to learn how they can help their child, and the honest answer is that it depends on the child. However, the two constants in this situation are to listen and simply be present when you are needed (and maybe even when you aren’t). Younger children tend to simply wear their emotions and process from a place of raw innocence. Teens are often unsure where and how to display their emotions or even identify them because they can be far more complicated. Sadness, anger, resentment, avoidance (“I’m fine”), and even guilt are very normal emotions/behaviors to see after something like this. Help your student to express these feelings and work through them by using simple phrases such as, “I can see how hard this is for you” or “The pain you are experiencing right now is real. It’s okay to hurt.” While these seem logical, some simply need permission to grieve.
While we’ve certainly witnessed many students responding with an outpouring of tears and lamentations we’ve also seen those who haven’t been personally impacted. These students can often feel guilt for not having any emotions or not understand why their peers are reacting as they are. It’s okay if your child is one who simply isn’t upset. Most will understand this is horrible and feel badly, but where it doesn’t really impact them, they won’t have an emotional response. This is also okay.
While it is often a natural reaction to want to “fix” the situation and ease our child’s pain and discomfort, we recommend you refrain from setting a particular timeline for grief or making promises of “it will get better.” In these very complicated situations, there can be no guarantees or quick fixes. Through pain there is healing. This will be a long process. Just because time passes, the feelings of loss will not. Do not be surprised if weeks or months from now your student is saddened or angered all over again. We can’t heal just because some fictitious timeline says things should be all better.
We are fortunate in Cincinnati to have the Fernside organization who are experts in helping families and children with grief. If you would like to visit their website and take advantage of the many different resources they offer, please visit http://www.fernside.org/grief-resources/ . If you would like further support surrounding grief, there is a wonderful article by Focus on the Family entitled, “Living with Healthy Grief.” https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/living-with-healthy-grief/ As always, we are happy to be a support for your students during this difficult time.
About the Author
Kara Ussery is a licensed school counselor and her role as an admission representative at the University of Missouri led her to this field. Serving as a school and college counselor since 2002, she worked at Indian Hill and Wyoming High Schools prior to joining CHCA in 2015. Kara takes an active role in college admission trends to keep CHCA connected and students ready for all that the college search and application process entails. Kara serves CHCA sophomores through seniors in all aspects of the college process as well as academic counseling. She is also the counselor who works with all of CHCA’s international students.