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Helping Students Cope with a Loss
Chris Nelson
Friday, January 24, 2020

Dear Students, Parents, and Community Members:

 

The Iola-Scandinavia School Community suffered another unexpected loss on January 5th with the passing of high school social studies teacher, Mr. Brian Tucker.   Last school year we also lost Kelli Prinsen, who was a junior student, and Mr. Andrew Schefelker, a middle/high school science teacher.  These losses have had an impact on our staff, students, and community. 

 

Coping with the loss of someone you care about is one of life’s most difficult challenges especially for school age students.  Grieving is unique to each individual and the experience will vary based on personalities, coping styles, and how significant the person was in their lives.   I have provided some general strategies and supports below that were provided with some modifications from the Starstoolkit.org

Potential Student Reactions after a Loss

  • Show a decline in school performance
  • Have difficulty mastering new material
  • Become more irritable
  • Become withdrawn
  • Become anxious or depressed
  • Become more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as substance abuse, promiscuity, reckless driving, and suicide
  • Become focused on the loss

Whenever possible, students should be offered additional supports to assist them in maintaining their academic progress before academic failure occurs, which would represent an additional stressor.

What Teachers and Adults Can Do

  • Listen to what students want to share with you.  It may be difficult but just listening can be a powerful healing force.  Be patient, as this will take time.
  • Protect students from becoming re-traumatized.  Sometimes other students may ridicule highly emotional students who cry.
  • Connect with students who have suffered a loss by asking how they are doing; checking in with them on a regular basis; letting them know that you are available to listen; or giving them feedback about their attendance or classroom work.
  • Model adult behavior that shows them how responsible adults to react to loss and respond to crisis.  Adults may grieve, but they continue to act with consideration and maintain calm routines at school.
  • Counselors can teach students about normal signs and symptoms of grief/trauma so that students can assess and understand their own behavior and learn new ways of coping.
  • Be honest at all times, share your feelings.
  • Use the teacher’s name when talking about them.
  • Expect violent reactions.
  • Use your normal voice and say, “dead, died, dying, death” as needed.
  • It’s OK to say “ I do not know”.
  • Reassure students that anger, guilt, sadness, fear, shock, etc., are normal feelings.

The Iola-Scandinavia School counselors are available for students to talk with and we are also working with Waupaca County for support and resources.  If you find that your student is having difficulties please reach out to the school so we can work together to support them through these traumatic times.

 

Mr. Chris Nelson

Middle/High School Principal