death of a family member

Discussion in 'Elementary Education Archives' started by Tch4th, Jan 13, 2006.

  1. Tch4th

    Tch4th Rookie

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    Jan 13, 2006

    I just found out that one of my students may lose a very close family member to cancer before the school year is over. This student is very sensitive, has self-confidence issues and I would just like some advice. Have you had this happen? What have you done to help both the student and the family? My husband and I are fairly close to the entire family as we have coached and taught an older sibling, as well, and we just want to be sensitive to their needs.
    Thanks.
     
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  3. 1stferg

    1stferg Comrade

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    Jan 13, 2006

    This has happened to me twice.

    In 1995, I had a set of twins in kindergarten who lost their mother to cancer on Christmas Eve. The family did not put an obituary in the paper so I didn't hear about it until we returned to school after New Years. Found out shortly after that their dad had told them that Santa took mommy and left them their presents. Talk about bizarre! They were an old time mountain family. They honestly believed that the mom got cancer because she must have done something wrong to deserve it. When people are that ignorant you really can't reason with them. As far as the children were concerned I just gave lots of attention and patience.

    The other situation was in 1999. A little girl in my first grade class lost her mom to cancer in October. This time I knew about it right away. I was able to go to the funeral home and then I was released from school to go to the funeral. This was a single mom and the dad was not involved in the little girl's life at all. So she went to live with her grandparents who actually live in the same area where I live. Unfortunately, it is not in the attendance area for the school. So I helped the grandmother get transfer papers so we could keep some stability in the child's life. I developed a close relationship with the grandmother and I know she really appreciated me taking a special interest in her granddaughter. In second grade the little girl transferred to the local school for our home community. I did everything I could to help smooth that transition. Because my kids went to that school I knew a lot of the teachers and I was able to help the grandparents and child make a happy transition. This little girl is in middle school now and I still see her in the neighborhood from time to time. I always get a big hug, and she tells me all about everything she is doing. Her grandparents are doing a wonderful job raising her!
     
  4. Proud2BATeacher

    Proud2BATeacher Phenom

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    Jan 13, 2006

    I had a little boy in my class last year whose mother has stage 4 cancer. She has 3 different types of cancer and has had everything removed (uterus, breasts...) that will help prolong her life. The mother has just run out of benefits. She looks like she can barely walk but has 3 other children (10 yr. old, 9 year old, 7 year old and 3 year old) to look after and her husband. His father got in a car accident last year and has brain damage and is now unemployable. Luckily their grandmothers are nearby (next door and 10 minutes away) and there are uncles; as each of them take a child for the weekend so his mother could rest.

    Some of the teachers who taught him, along with past parapros. got together before Christmas and gave his mother some money to pay her gas bill, phone bill, buy Christmas presents... She was crying when we gave her the envelope.

    It is so sad and I am thinking of moving over the summer but I really want to be here for the kids, just in case (I guess it is not a "just in case" situation, it is more like when "when" his mother passes.
     
  5. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Jan 13, 2006

    What heartbreak. All these poor children. A year ago last May, one of my students' mother died. The following year, 04/05, I picked up her and her sister every morning and brought them to school with me from 7am until school started. I helped them fix their hair, brought breakfast stuff in, checked homework, etc. It did take a lot out of me but I think it was important to them.
     
  6. 1stferg

    1stferg Comrade

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    Jan 13, 2006

    Daisy, You'll probably never know how important that was to those kids. You are a very special person for giving of yourself to do all that!
     
  7. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Jan 13, 2006

    Awww, thank you 1stferg. I hope it helped. I have one of the girls in my MS math class this year and will have the other one in 5th grade next year. I still go in one day a week early to open the school before 7am so their dad can drop them off before his work.
     
  8. dee

    dee Companion

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    Jan 14, 2006

    I have a student who lost his mother just before we came back to school from Christmas break. He miss the first week of school and cam back to school Monday. His first morning back was very horrible; he is very angry and he was screaming, kicking, fighting. We did make it thru the day. He did not come to school Thursday and yesterday I found out that his daddy has left home and they do not know where he is now.
     
  9. HSinger

    HSinger Rookie

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    Jan 14, 2006

    I have a 3rd grade student whose mom was shot by her boyfriend while he watched...during his birthday party. When he came back to school he was very quiet, and really wanted to be left alone. He continued to do his work just like always, and ever so often he would be 'caught' crying over something someone said (not mean), or some action that was made. He told me once that I "reminded him of his mom because I was nice like her." I've never treated him differently than other students because something horrible happened to his mom. When he has gone one day for the funeral, I explained to the other students that we shouldn't treat him differently when he came back. He has perked up some in the past two weeks since school's been back in session. I see a sparkle coming back. He's grandmother told the translator (she only speaks Spanish) that she was glad we were treating him like a normal everyday 3rd grade student. She thought it was making it easier to deal with his mom's death.
     
  10. 1stferg

    1stferg Comrade

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    Jan 14, 2006

    HSinger, is he seeing a counselor? That kind of trauma will leave a scar.
     
  11. hanvan

    hanvan Connoisseur

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    Jan 15, 2006

    All these poor children. I had a little girl while I student taught and her mom died and we just gave them things they needed, clothes, food, money, christmas. I moved so I never found out how she is now.

    Another student was walking with his pregnant mom, baby sister, toddler brother down a very busy street when a car ran everyone over. They were all expected to die except the baby sister (somehow she was ok) and when my student started pulling through I went to see him. The mother was expected to go anyday and I would sit with the student at the hospital for hours on end. I read him stories, brought him movies, ordered his food, watched him cry for his mom and brother. Thankfully everyone (even the baby she was carrying) pulled through.
    But I think you just do what you feel you have to rather that be treating him the same, taking them to school etc.
    You will know what to do when it is time. I'll be keeping this kid in my prayers.
     
  12. leighbball

    leighbball Virtuoso

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    Jan 15, 2006

    Last year, I had a little girl who lost her mother. Her stepfather shot her mother and then killed himself. It was horrible. Luckily, my student was at her grandmother's at the time (she spent almost every weekend with grandma).

    The grandma didn't want to tell my student alone (the murder/sucide happened on a Sunday and my student didn't know) so grandma brought my student in to school (during the school day) and the principal, two close family friends, and the counselor were in the room with her when they told her. I was brought in after they told her because she asked to see me. I told her that I had lost my mom when I was little (at 4, of cancer) and I would be there for her. I went to the viewing and the funeral.

    My student's father had passed away when she was 3 of a heart attack, so she went to live with her grandma, who actually is the sub caller for my school district. Grandma lived out of the township, but we got special permission for her to stay for the rest of the year (this happened in January). We also got her immediately approved for free breakfast and lunch. She moved over the summer to be closer to her mom's cousin, who helps to take care of her since grandma is in her late 70's.

    It was a really emotional time for me. The day after we told my student, we told the rest of my class. The counselor, principal, vp, and psychologist came in to tell the class (2nd graders) with me. Of course, then they left and I started crying and I suddenly had a room of crying kids too. But I think it was good that they saw it was okay to cry. We made cards for my student, and we decided we wanted to help my student feel better. She didn't want anything from her house except for a radio, so they needed new clothes, toys, etc.

    My class decorated collection boxes in art class and my class and the entire staff of my school collected clothes, toys, books (she loved to read!) and other things for her. I even had parents offering to take her in their homes. It was incredible. We were able to make things a little easier for them.

    I was supposed to have my student again this year, as I moved up from 2nd to 3rd grade, but she moved. This week is one year since the murder/suicide. Not a day goes by that I don't wonder how she is doing.

    My advice: be there for the family, be there for the student in ways you feel you should, and help organize a collection if they need anything. My thoughts are with you...I know it is a difficult time to think about.
     
  13. leighbball

    leighbball Virtuoso

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    Jan 15, 2006

    Oh Dee...how sad! I hope everything is okay. That is a scary situation, and I really hope he is found safe.
     
  14. AMK

    AMK Aficionado

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    Jan 15, 2006

    These stories are so sad. My parents passed away when I was a baby. I never knew until I was in 3rd grade. My grandparents raised me and I called them mom and dad. My teachers were never told about my parents until i found out b/c my family was afraid that one of them were going to tell me accidently. I remember my 3rd grade teacher didnt believe me and asked the principal and she said yes I was right.

    So all you can do is really be there for your students. In my school we have a great program called rainbows which is used in churches as well. It is a program for children who have lost someone or have gone through a divorce. I actully run a group in my school and it is great place for the children to talk about how they feel.
    here is the website http://www.rainbows.org/
     
  15. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Jan 15, 2006

    Wow, anyone who doubts how much teachers care should read this thread.
     
  16. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Jan 16, 2006

    Several of the teachers from my staff took the Rainbows training in the fall and we are going to be starting up some groups within the next two months. I have heard wonderful things from parents whose children have participated in the program.
     
  17. Tch4th

    Tch4th Rookie

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    Jan 17, 2006

    Thank you to everyone who has posted. I am so thankful that my student has a great deal of family support. She came to me today and said that she thought that her family member might have cancer, but no one has told her for sure. I'm going to contact her mother to let her know.
    It makes me wonder sometimes how we are supposed to teach children that live such traumatic lives. How are we supposed to make them care about learning their multiplication tables when they don't even know what they are going to go home to?
     

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