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Death and Grief in the Classroom: Dangerous Discussions

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Death and Grief in the Classroom: Dangerous Discussions Kay Fowler Feb. 28, 2007 Frail bit of good luck – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Death and Grief in the Classroom: Dangerous Discussions


1
Death and Grief in the Classroom Dangerous
Discussions
  • Kay Fowler
  • Feb. 28, 2007

2
Frail bit of good luck
  • "We fail to value life as a frail bit of good
    luck in a world based on chance."
  • (Arthur Frank, At the Will of the Body 128)

3
Bereavement
  • The state of being bereaved or deprived of
    something the objective situation of
    individuals who have experienced a loss of some
    person or thing that they valued. (Corless
    2001 qtd. Corr 209).

4
Grief
  • The reaction to loss.
  • Can be experienced in numerous ways

5
Mourning
  • The processes of coping with loss and grief,
    and thus the attempt to manage those experiences
    or learn to live with them by incorporating them
    into ongoing living. (Siggins)

6
Grief Manifestations
  • Physical sensations
  • Feelings (a wide range from sadness to anger to
    yearning to numbness, etc.) Thoughts or
    Cognitions (e.g. disbelief, preoccupation)
  • Behaviors (again a wide range)
  • Social Difficulties
  • Spiritual searching.

7
In the classroom
  • Grief/trauma makes students/teacher feel out of
    control out of the norm
  • Class can be a relatively safe space to try to
    find some sense of renewed control or normalcy
  • Teacher not an expert here -- but a participant
    in the grief -- but is still an experienced
    facilitator

8
How to Start
  • Students want opportunity to process but also
    dont want to be overwhelmed -- want some return
    to familiar
  • Start with statement of openness to discuss
    situation
  • Set a time limit for the discussion - 30 min. or
    45 min.

9
Be concrete and complete
  • Give as clear, full, and concrete a description
    of the information as you know
  • Make clear what you dont know or what isnt
    known at this time
  • Describe what you can about efforts underway to
    get more information
  • Indicate that one discussion is not going to be a
    quick fix grief/trauma does not have a timeline
    or a solution one learns to live around -- not
    get over it.

10
Ground rules
  • Be open and respectful
  • Share your own reactions to the degree that you
    feel comfortable
  • Let students know its okay to pass
  • Listen carefully and reflect back what has been
    said

11
Facilitating
  • Validate feelings -- ask how feelings can be
    channeled positively
  • Resist using cliches, quick reassurances, or
    religious or patriotic wisdom (whatever your own
    beliefs)
  • When students offer these affirm their
    perspective but gently reflect that others will
    perceive things differently or hold different
    beliefs and values

12
Start with writing
  • Have students write for 5 minutes or so about
    their reactions/questions
  • Start class discussion with question -- how did
    you learn about ?
  • Invite students to share their reactions/questions

13
Observe carefully
  • Watch class for exhaustion with topic or for
    heightened anxiety
  • Watch individuals for acute grief or risk signals
    of suicidal or violent responses
  • Draw these students aside at break or end of class

14
Hate language
  • If hate langauge or revenge talk emerges toward a
    particular group help students to take apart
    where the anger is coming from, where it
    belongs and where it is being inappropriately
    generalized, and how to use anger positively
    rather than destructively

15
Closing Discussion
  • When time is up or when subject seems to be
    becoming overwhelming bring discussion to closure
    by
  • Offering resources for help where you know them,
    Counseling Center, agencies, websites, etc.
  • Suggest research, readings, and/or action steps
    to be taken. Draw suggestions from students.

16
Closing discussion
  • Suggest ways to tie subject into class subject
    where possible
  • Promise (if appropriate) further discussion in a
    later class -- not necessarily the next class and
    tied to steps to learn more/research more before
    that discussion
  • Ask students to write thoughts again for five
    minutes

17
Break
  • If long class take a short break before turning
    to the class work for the day
  • If short class try to do some of the class work
    for the day even if only 5 or 10 minutes before
    class ends to restore sense that life and
    learning are continuing and are valuable

18
Self-care
  • If possible talk with someone you trust about the
    class in advance
  • Definitely talk with someone you trust after the
    class -- debrief, get a hug, cry your own tears
  • Write your own reaction/thoughts on the event --
    and on the class discussion
  • Do something healing -- take a walk, paint a
    picture, work in your garden, etc.

19
Grieving Hurts
20
6 Rs of Grieving
  1. Recognize the loss (acknowledge and understand
    the death)
  2. React to the separation (e. g. feel the pain,
    express, identify and mourn secondary losses)
  3. Recollect and re-experience the deceased and the
    relationship (review and remember realistically,
    revive and re-experience feelings) (Rando)

21
6 Rs continued
  • 4. Relinquish the old attachments to the
    deceased and the old assumptive world
  • Readjust to move adaptively into the new world
    without forgetting the old (develop a new
    relationship with the deceased, adopt new ways of
    being in the world)
  • Reinvest.
  • (Rando)

22
Factors affecting grief
  • A. Psychological Factors
  • 1. characteristics and meaning of the lost
    relationship (e.g. lost roles and functions,
    unfinished business, etc.)
  • 2. your personal characteristics (e.g. coping
    behaviors, accumulation of or simultaneous other
    stresses, etc.)
  • 3. specific circumstances of the death (location,
    type, timeliness, sense of preventability
    etc.)
  • 4. Corr adds developmental situation of the
    bereaved person (child, adolescent, adult or
    elderly person)
  • (Rando Corr)

23
Social Factors
  • B. Social Factors
  • 1. Social support system
  • 2. sociocultural, ethnic, religious/philosophical
    backgrounds/values
  • 3. educational, economic, and occupational status
  • 4. funerary rituals
  • 5. social recognition of the loss, the
    relationship, the grief
  • (Rando 1988)

24
Physical Factors
  • C. Physical Factors
  • 1. Drugs and sedatives
  • 2. Nutrition
  • 3. Rest and sleep
  • 4. Physical health
  • 5. Exercise
  • (Rando)

25
Complicated Grief
  • There is a pain -- so utter --

26
Bone by Bone
  • There is a pain -- so utter --
  • It swallows substances up--
  • Then covers the Abyss with trance
  • So Memory can step
  • Around--across-upon it--
  • As one within a swoon
  • Goes safely--where an open eye--
  • Would drop him -- Bone by Bone
  • Emily Dickinson

27
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28
Complicated Grief Reactions
  • Chronic prolonged no real sense of progress
    toward readjusting to life without the lost
  • Delayed Grief is inhibited, suppressed, or
    postponed -- can surface later in an excessive
    reaction

29
Or
  • Exaggerated Excessive and disabling. May lead
    to phobia, physical or psychiatric symptons or
    aberrant or maladaptive behavior
  • Masked Individuals experience symptoms or
    behaviors (including complete absence of grief)
    that cause them difficulty but that they do not
    recognize as related to the loss.

30
Disenfranchised Grief
  • Grief is exacerbated when it is
    disenfranchised.
  • Ken Doka notes 3 primary ways grief can be
    disenfranchised either the relationship or the
    loss or the griever is not recognized. (Doka
    1989b)

31
Complicating factors
  • Relationship not recognized
  • Invisibility
  • Hypervisibility
  • Exacerbated trauma
  • Rejection/Denial

32
Community Bereavement
  • Both a positive (as losses are shared and mourned
    together) and an extra dimension to personal loss
    -- as the community itself is diminished by
    multiple losses and strained under chronic
    grief

33
Chronic Mourning Multiple, ongoing losses
and traumas experienced by an individual or a
community with the expectation of more to come
34
Such as
  • hate crimes against a particular group, war
    zones, environmentally damaged areas, public
    health disasters, familial health patterns,
    locales where violent crime is frequent

35
Need for Social Support
36
Complicating Grief
  • The very nature of disenfranchised grief creates
    additional problems for grief, while removing or
    minimizing sources of support (Doka)

37
Exacerbated Grief
  • Studies document that a deficit in social
    support has been associated with poor outcomes in
    bereavement as measured by the persons health in
    the first year after the loss of a loved one, and
    that an absence of social support is directly
    related to continued high distress two years
    after the death of a significant other.
    (Shernoff)

38
Resilience
  • continued social, political, and cultural
    activity appears to foster resilience and help
    the community fend off feelings of despair and
    helplessness. (Dworkin Kaufer)

39
What Can We Do?
  • Learn Listen Aggressively
  • Validate, Accept, Honor
  • Hug
  • Participate in the rituals and in the political
    activism
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