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Dealing with Grief

Why would it be good to know more about grief and loss when schools are re-opening after Lockdown?

Whilst grief is a normal and natural reaction to loss, whether it be the death of a family member, friend, colleague or pet, the recent Lockdown may have heightened such feelings particularly if a bereavement has been the result of Covid-19. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to grief many people do not know what to do with the painful feelings they are experiencing or feel comfortable in verbalising them. Consequently, as schools re-open their doors, there may well be a sense of apprehension for all involved in school life, not least in terms of how best to support this return, by keeping everyone safe and well physically and also mentally given;

It is also worth knowing that grief can be the result of a loss of any kind, so it doesn’t have to be physical, it could simply be a loss of an individual’s Lockdown routine which may be causing them anxiety or a fear returning which could result in them being absent for a pro-longed period of time.

So, what can School Governors do to help ease the transition?

As I am sure you are aware, Governors have 3 core functions:

Whilst all three are potentially affected by the current challenges of the easing of Lockdown, the challenges of trying to support students and parents to home school and planning for the future are still difficult for Governors given that things are still evolving on a daily basis. However unless support for mental health and wellbeing lie at the centre of such strategies, none of the key functions and responsibilities will be successfully delivered. Therefore it would seem essential for school Governors to not only acknowledge the issue of grief, but also educate themselves too.

So what are the “basics” that Governors need to know?

There are two definitions that are useful and worth remembering as they start to shed light on what grief is really all about: 

In the context of Lockdown, examples of “conflicting feelings” may be feeling happy at the prospect of returning to school, but also feeling a sense of anxiety or sadness that it isn’t going to be the same as it was before especially having lost someone or something. Whilst life events like moving or changing schools may not be acknowledged as a “loss”, humans grieve for any relationship they deem significant and when this happens, it can create emotional distress to the point of feeling “stuck” and unable to move forward with life.

The 6 myths of grief

Whilst grief is a normal and natural process and is one of the few times that we may well be sad, children typically learn the opposite from adults. This is because many adults do not know what to do or say when they encounter grief, so often they will avoid the subject altogether, thereby reinforcing the feelings of loneliness and isolation grievers may feel.

To make matters worse when people are brave enough to start a conversation, they often say unhelpful things however well intentioned. The 6 myths to look out for are:

Rather than acknowledging a loss and allowing people to feel sad, the temptation is to distract them from the void that has appeared in their life by replacing it with something else, encouraging them to keep busy so that in time things will heal, except they don’t. Minimising the feelings of others by advising them to keep strong and not upset others only serves to advise them to grieve alone.

Opening up to grief

Whilst it isn’t always easy to spot, the common symptoms of grief are feeling numb, irritable or confused, which may cause a lack of concentration or focus, disruption to sleeping patterns or eating habits, plus a roller coaster of emotions that may change frequently throughout the day. However it is important to try to spot the signs as if left unchecked grief can cause anxiety, depression and more serious problems in the longer term. In my view it takes an awful lot of courage to ask for help, but if there is someone who is aware, educated and can create that safe space for people to open up that can only be a good thing.

To help Governors recognise and be more aware of these symptoms perhaps for themselves as well as others, I have put together a list of Top 10 tips for what to do if you become aware that someone may be struggling with loss and grief which is a document in "My Resources" section under my experience as a Grief Recovery Specialist but also available on my blog. http://grmstartup.blogspot.com/

In conclusion, I hope that you have found this article useful and whilst no one expect Governors to be fully aware of this subject, it is good to know what to do and where to seek help so with this in mind…..

If any of the points raised in this article have made you wonder about finding out more about the how to better manage life change or about loss and grief generally then please contact me for an informal chat about how I might assist you further ?

Furthermore if you use the link below to connect to my web page you will find a free E-booklet to download about on Grief and Loss that expands on some of the points raised in this article.

https://www.griefrecoverymethod.co.uk/lisa/

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