‘Tis the season to be jolly…
True but not for everyone. Students and staff members who are grieving are most likely struggling to come to terms with their loss and the holidays with its fond memories can be exceptionally difficult. My husband, Alan, passed away this summer, only a few weeks after the anniversary of his initial brain bleed. These past three months have been a whirlwind of emotions. Grief and bereavement can be overwhelming – a journey with many ups and downs. This struggle challenges the mourner to his or her very core on an average day. So how do we address the needs of our students and staff during the holidays? I’ve been thinking about this – a lot.
When old traditions become too difficult to bear, perhaps it may be time for new traditions. Last month was the first time in 29 years that I did not spend Thanksgiving at my father-in-law’s house, instead we drove to Pennsylvania for a change of scenery. During our meal we gave thanks and remembered those no longer with us by lighting Four Candles. This new tradition is one that we’ll keep through many holidays and family celebrations. As our family celebrates Hanukkah this week, adding a few more candles to light won’t pose a problem. But I’ve been feeling that we should be doing more in remembrance during the long holiday season. And since misery loves company, I’ve organized a holiday grief program at our high school open to students and staff: Crafting Your Grief through the Holidays.
Many of the crafts involve remembrance – a memory ornament, a memory box, a memory jar and the like. I love the memory ornaments but as we have never had a Christmas tree or ‘Hanukkah bush’ it has taken an effort to explain to my children that just because I buy a tree doesn’t mean we’re converting! Our memory tree will hold the newly made ornaments, made from my husband’s shirts, and when we are all together during the holiday, we will plant the tree in the back yard. This is our first year without my husband, so we’ll see how it goes. As for the craft program scheduled next week, I’ll let you know how it turned out.
*Caveat: I consulted with our mental health professionals within our building and have attended an 8-week grief support group. Please use caution when implementing a grief program. A keepsake ornament does not replace my dead husband or make me feel better or happy. I’d prefer to hold my husband, not an ornament. Our students, too, feel a range of emotions about the loss of their parent, grandparent or other loved one. Also, there needs to be a familial discussion as to what items can be upcycled (i.e. cut up and permanently damaged). I will be writing an online article on “how-to” implement a grief program in your school at anytime of the year. When it’s complete and uploaded, I’ll add a link here.
In loving memory of Dr. Alan Jay Seymour (11/10/60 – 8/28/18)