Need advice on dealing with a tragedy

Discussion in 'Elementary Education Archives' started by 1stgradekids, Aug 20, 2006.

  1. 1stgradekids

    1stgradekids Rookie

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    Aug 20, 2006

    My principal called this afternoon to let me know one of my students drowned yesterday. :(
    I am still in shock!
    We have only been in school 7 days, but I already was attached to her. She was a sweetheart.
    She was living with her grandmother who was trying her best to raise her the right way and make her feel loved.

    We have contacted the parents of the other students in my room to give them a chance to prepare their child. We have a grief counselor coming tomorrow to do an activity with my class.

    I was just wondering if any of you have had this happen and have any advice on how to deal with this in my class. They are 1st graders. I feel like most of them will just be upset about death in general or scared that someone they are close to will die.

    It really changes my outlook on this school year and puts things in perspective. I hope that every child in my room knows already how much I love and care for them. Those problem children don't seem like such a problem right now. :(
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Aug 20, 2006

    I'm so so sorry.

    I've been to a number of student funerals-- they tear your heart out. And it's a killer having to be strong for the kids while you're in pain yourself.

    I'm high school, not elementary. I have no advice, just my sincerest sympathies!
     
  4. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    Aug 20, 2006

    I have lost students before and it doesn't get any easier. I taught 4th at the time so it might be different for your kids. I was just upfront with them. I answered whatever questions they had and we talked about them. I also cried in front of them. I didn't sob or break down, but I had tears streaming as we talked about our lost friend. I think that was important for them to see that it was ok to express your sadness. Dealing wtih ones that small, I don't know. There are some amazing lower grade teachers on here, I'm sure they'll have things to suggest. Also, don't hesitate to talk to the counselor yourself, or your preacher, someone. While you want to stay strong for your kids, you have deal with the loss in your own way, too.
    I'm keeping you all in my prayers.
     
  5. Deb06

    Deb06 Companion

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    Aug 20, 2006

    I'm so sorry to hear this. I worked in a Daycare last year and a lot of the kids I had in the after school program were friends with a little girl who passed away unexpectedly. The school provided grief counselors and the class made cards for her family. She was in the third grade.

    You and your class are in my thoughts and prayers!
     
  6. chicagoturtle

    chicagoturtle Fanatic

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    Aug 20, 2006

    I am sorry to hear this. We had some deaths at our school before I was on staff. I think the traditional grief counselors came in etc.

    My own brother drowned when I was 10. So a bit older than your students. I was a 4th grader. I know there are some books about death for young students but it is even probably to late for you to get to a borders/barnes before they close and no guarantee they have it.

    I will say just be as honest as you think is appropriate and maybe you can bring in some stuffed animals for the kids to cuddle with if they need to and be open. Also I would maybe write a letter to send home to the kids parents at the end of the day. Maybe the drama, art, or music teacher can do a "special" class with your class and allow them to express themselves in a bit of a different way. As these guys won't all be able to verbalize their feelings yet. It is pretty much a complex concept.

    I can tell you while at 10 I understood what was going on my mind was still warped about the situation. Like I knew he was dead and not comming back but at the same time I thought maybe my parents were just trying to see "how strong" I was etc. Maybe you can also have your students make drawings/a card for the family or any siblings? HTH a little....
     
  7. 1stgradekids

    1stgradekids Rookie

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    Aug 20, 2006

    Thank you everyone. You thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated!!
    Tomorrow will be a rough day.
     
  8. 1stgradekids

    1stgradekids Rookie

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    Aug 20, 2006

    chicago turtle...thank you for sharing.

    I have a letter somewhat drafted already and will send it home tomorrow. I have a few stuffed animals already at school so we can pass those around as needed.

    I thought about making cards for the family. She has an older sister in 3rd grade at our school. It will be toughest on her.

    Too bad we don't have art, music, or drama at my school. (No money) I am pretty sure though that the counselor with be able to do some of those things with them.

    Thanks for your help.
     
  9. hescollin

    hescollin Fanatic

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    Aug 20, 2006

    We read "Beyond the Ridge" to our classes. It is the best book.

    If at all possible take the cards and some apples, orange juice or something to the family. Go see them and share a hug.

    Sympathy to you and your class. Also sent a prayer to Heaven for each of you and her family.
     
  10. Mrs.SLF

    Mrs.SLF Comrade

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    Aug 20, 2006

    I remember when I was in fourth grade there was a girl who died. She died of carbon monoxide poisoning. She was staying at a new house with her older siblings and the heat was not working. They ended up closing all of the windows and using a barbque grill to keep warm. The little girl and her siblings died and it was in the papers the following day. The girl was not in my fourth grade homeroom class but the school arranged for both fourth grade classes to spend the day working through what happened. I remember having counselors come in and talk to us and we were all able to share what we remembered about her. To this day, the whole situation seems kind of surreal to me. I have no advice because it happened when I was older but I know you all will be able to get through it. I couldn't imagine losing a student even though I have lost a classmate.
     
  11. 2Teach_is_2Care

    2Teach_is_2Care Rookie

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    Aug 20, 2006

    My deepest sympathies to you, your class, and the little girl's family. It is difficult when you lose someone. I have no advice to give except don't be afraid to shead some tears with your students tomorrow. It lets them know that it is ok to cry and be upset when something tragic happens. My prayers to all of you.
     
  12. Mizz Lucy

    Mizz Lucy Guest

    Aug 20, 2006

    I had a 1st grade student pass away during the year once.
    We kept his desk and name tag there for quite some time.
    That helped the kids a lot with grieving.
    When it was time to let go,
    I surprisingly moved everyones desks and coat cubbies with fresh new name tags.
    God Bless...
     
  13. MissFrizzle

    MissFrizzle Virtuoso

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    Aug 20, 2006

    Just wanted to send my condolences. Makes you think about how fragile life really is. So, so , sad.
     
  14. just-n-educator

    just-n-educator Companion

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    So sorry for the tragic accident. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Please let us know how everything goes. It will get better :).
     
  15. leighbball

    leighbball Virtuoso

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    Aug 20, 2006

    I am so sorry for your loss. I have never lost a student, but two years ago, when I taught 2nd grade, a stepfather of one of my students killed his wife and then himself. Thankfully, the student was not at home at the time.

    My student was with her grandmother and now lives with her. She had previously lost her father to a heart attack when she was 3.

    It happened on a Sunday, we told her on Monday (grandma didn't want to tell her alone, so we told her in the counselor's office at school), and on Tuesday we told the whole class. A letter went home from the principal on Tuesday to my class.

    Like others said, I also cried when we told my class. I lost my mom to cancer when I was 4, so death can be a touchy subject for me. The school psychologist, princpal, vice principal, and counselor were all in the room when we told my class. Many cried, some were just shocked. We never discussed the actual events of the day...I left that up to the parents to do that if they chose to.

    My advice is be sensitive to your students' needs. Many will cry, some might be angry. Just do the best that you can...and don't be afraid to cry.
     
  16. Youngteacher226

    Youngteacher226 Enthusiast

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    My prayers are with you tonight! I am so so sorry for you and your children. Try to make everyday a memorable one with your students, I'm sure that will help ease the pain a bit. You have to be strong to deal with such a tragedy like this one and I do admire you. God bless.:angel:
     
  17. jeanie

    jeanie Companion

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    Aug 21, 2006

    I think that making cards (or one big card that everyone signs) for the family is a perfect idea. Even if you didn't do it today... make a point to do it and send it or them some time this week. Losing a child is a hard thing to deal with... and school life and friends are such an important part of a child's life. I think parents and family will really appreciate this gesture...knowing their child was cared about and will be missed by many others. Your class kids will feel like they have done something important as well.
    From a first grade standpoint, they may all grieve in a slightly different. Some may cry, some may ask lots of questions, and some may act like it is no big deal. Stick with your routines as much as you can. My sympathies. God bless.
     
  18. yessc31

    yessc31 Companion

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    Aug 21, 2006

  19. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I'm so sorry. Your students are so young, it's hard to know how they will react. I think that making cards is a great idea--it will mean a lot to the family! The grief counsellors will be a great help; be sure you spend some time with them yourself. Don't be afraid for the students to see you cry. My thoughts are with you today.
     
  20. Pixiewannabe

    Pixiewannabe Comrade

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    Aug 21, 2006

    My prayers are with you and your students today.
     
  21. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    Aug 21, 2006

    First of all you're all in my thoughts & prayers. (((Hugs to you & the kids)))))
    When I taught 1st a sibling of a child in another 1st grade room passed away, Even though she was younger we had grief counselors for about 2 days in our room. The kids drew pictures, made cards & just socialized w/ me & the other students. Just help them as they help you!!!!
     
  22. 1stgradekids

    1stgradekids Rookie

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    Aug 21, 2006

    Update on dealing with tragedy

    First of all...THANK YOU for all the notes and prayers. You were all a big help. :thanks:

    I went prepared today for a sad, sad day, but it went a little better than I thought. They came in this morning quiet since most already knew from my phone call yesterday. We unpacked and started morning work like we do every morning.
    After morning announcements we met on the carpet and shared our feelings. A handful cried for a little while. They were mainly ones that were in her same class in Kindergarten. They had a few questions about what happened. Most wanted to share about death in general or someone close to them that died. I basically just let them share anything they wanted for a little while.

    We then made cards and letters to her family. I told them they could draw or write anything they wanted to share. They were really sweet! We also traced our hand prints and glued them on the outside of the box that held all the letters and cards.

    After about an hour...they were ready to move on for now and go on with our regular day. I tried to keep them as business as usual, but with moments to talk if they wanted to talk.

    I didn't have any books on hand about death, so I decided to read Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox. We discussed what a memory was and that we will always have memories of Dania and any loved one that we miss.

    So all in all it was a good day. It was much harder on me than them which is how I would want it. I don't like to see them upset. Dania was a sweet angel and will be missed very much.

    Whew! I wrote a lot! :eek:

    Oh yeah...also found out yesterday that another student of mine was admitted to the hospital for problems with his colon. They are running test to find out what is wrong. I went and saw him today and took him some things to occupy his time in the hospital. He was so cute in his little hospital gown.
    What a start to a school year. I hope we have only good news from now on!!!
    Thank you all again for you support!!!
     
  23. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Aug 21, 2006

    1stgradekids, that's a lot for YOU to be going through in a relatively short span of time, too. Please take better than usual care of yourself - and I don't mean "if you can", dear, I mean "make it happen". Please.
     
  24. just-n-educator

    just-n-educator Companion

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    I agree!!! Please make time out for your self, and talk about it if you need to and don't just keep it all in!! And good luck for the rest of the year.
     
  25. kidsarespecial

    kidsarespecial Rookie

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    Aug 26, 2006

    Thinking of you

    I am so sorry for your loss - I have tears welling up in my eyes as I write this.
    I had one of my 5th grade students die on the eve of the last day of school. I had to teach the entire day knowing what had happened but not being able to tell the kids. Each parent was called and at the end of the day (remember it was the last day of school), the principal and priest (Catholic school) came in and told them.
    I don't know how I got through the day - it has been just over 2 years - the kids are going into 8th grade and still have fond memories of their friend; as do I..
    Take care of yourself -
     
  26. JaimeMarie

    JaimeMarie Moderator

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    Aug 26, 2006

    I'm sorry I missed this post. It sounds like the day went very smoothly and you did everything you could. How are the students now? When we had a student die when I was student teaching in kindergarten, the grieve counselors told us to leave his work up until we took the other students work down. We also, left his cubby there the whole year.
    They said if we took it down it was like erasing the memory of him.
    Lots of hugs to you.
     
  27. michelb366

    michelb366 Comrade

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    Aug 26, 2006

    I've been off the board for a bit getting adjusted to the beginning of school. We have also had a death this year, the weekend before school statred. Ours was not a student, but rather the father of a student. He was 29 - killed in a fiery car crash. His son, 10, was in my class last year. The daughter, 9, will be in my class this year. Needless to say, the kids haven't been to school all week. It just rips my heart out when I think of all these kids have to go through. They also have a younger sister, 7, and little brother, 5.
    My deepest sypathies to your class and to you.
     
  28. KRaeLamb

    KRaeLamb Rookie

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    What doesn't kill you....makes you stronger! Your kids will remember you and thank you in years to come for all of your gestures. Keep up the good work!
     
  29. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    Aug 27, 2006

    When a classmate of my daughter (3rd grade) died the teacher decided to take the kids (those who wanted to) to the funeral. The child was killed in a car accident so it was a closed casket funeral. Most of the kids went, with their parents, on the bus to the funeral. That spring the class took up a collection & they bought & planted a tree. A couple of years later the kids were concerned about the tree when the district remodeled the school. The tree was not hurt or touched.
     
  30. 1stgradekids

    1stgradekids Rookie

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    Aug 27, 2006

    Hello! Again thanks for all the kind words and support. You are all wonderful!
    It was long week, but we made it. The funeral was Friday. I got a sub and went ahead and took a full day. (I needed a day off!)
    I have never been to a funeral for a child. It was SOOOO SAD! Her grandmother carried her school t-shirt during the processional and laid it in the casket before they closed it.

    They wanted someone from our school to speak and my principal asked me to do it. I wrote it out instead of just speaking. It was much easier and I was able to stay composed while reading. It was a huge honor to speak on her behalf.

    We have been in school 12 days it has already been a whirlwind of emotions. I just have a feeling though that this might be my most special class ever. All week they seemed to lift my spirits without even knowing what they were doing.

    I will try and make sure they know each day how much I care for them. It is sad that a few of them will get more love from me that home.

    I am ready to get back in the full swing of things and ready to teach them how to read! ;)

    Good Luck to everyone on the start of a great school year!!!
     

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