Today I held a weeping child at recess. He said he lost his best friend, his grandmother, a year ago. I seldom let a child hug me like family. This kid needed it, so I allowed him be loved and cry. He held on tight and I held on tighter. Maybe I needed the hug too. When I let go, I asked him if he wanted to talk to our school counselor. He said, “No, that was all I needed.”
Our classroom family talked about loss today. A different child suffered the kind of loss that stabs for a lifetime. He was not at school, so we talked about how to treat him when he returns. The counselor prepped me on what to say, but I was not prepared for the torrent of grief unleashed by so many other memories of sadness. Little boys, so tough, puddles of tears. So much loss for so few years.
One child raised her hand and offered some advice. She said, “This reminds us to go home and love our families because we don’t know how long they’ll be here.” She said it with conviction and without tears. The others nodded. Our day went on, the tears dried, recess lightened the mood. At the end of the afternoon, we signed a card for our missing student.
As I read the words after school, I was touched. So much empathy and encouragement. Talk of a classroom family, here for him upon his return, ready to listen, “to be his brother.” There is no changing the grief life brings, but there is our ability to be there for one another, to feel gratitude for each day, and for each other. A melancholy post, perhaps, but it makes me grateful for the lessons my children bring and for the overwhelming goodness inside each of them.
It’s so important to teach coping and kindness in the face of grief. It’s not an easy job. It probably shouldn’t fall on teachers…but I’m glad that, in your case, they found the right empathetic soul to guide them through the harsh realities of life. It doesn’t happen nearly often enough.
Thanks Kitt. It was harder than I thought it would be. At first, I couldn’t find the words to begin, my heart beat faster, I felt oddly nervous. It’s interesting how children process grief differently than most adults. For them, any loss can feel jarring, whether it is someone you met once or someone you loved dearly. Obviously the loss of a loved one lasts much longer, but I had forgotten how shaken up children get about death, even when it’s not someone they really know. I just hope my student was missing is able to heal.
A co-worker was talking to me today about his vacation last week. At one point, he stopped by to see the wife of a friend of his. My co-worker had been the best man at their wedding. Three years ago, his friend died, leaving behind a five-year-old daughter and his wife. My co-worker talked about having dinner with this woman and her daughter, now eight years old and how much the girl wanted to hear his stories about her father. I told him he gave her an incredible gift by sharing those stories. A connection was made and she got more understanding of what her father was like.
Words like what your students share with each other at times like this, the hugs you provide, the opportunity to cry freely, and talk about it all … so vital to acceptance and dealing with loss. Great post, Olivia. And the picture is just absolutely perfect.
What a beautiful story. Made me teary. I’m glad that child got to know her father a little better. It breaks my heart when children lose a parent. Thanks for the kind words.
Touching post my lovely friend… ❤
Thanks love 🙂