Hames, Carolyn [faculty advisor, College of Nursing]
grief; loss; child bereavement; elementary students; feelings; elementary curriculum
“It is only natural that we and our children find many things that are hard to talk about. But anything human is mentionable and anything mentionable is manageable.The mentioning can be difficult, and the managing too, but both can be done if we’re surrounded by love and trust.” ~Fred Rogers This quote could be talking about many different things that parents find difficult to talk to their children about, such as smoking, drinking, drugs, divorce, and sex. I was introduced to this quote as a one about parents talking to their children about death. Death is a part of life, and something that, unfortunately, many children have to deal with. Whether it be a goldfish, dog, friend, sibling, parent, or grandparent, children are likely to deal with some sort of death at a young age. So how do we help these children understand death? Through my experiences as an elementary education major, I have found that teachers do not know how to deal with children in his/her classroom who may have experienced a significant loss. Many teachers expect support to come from school psychologists and other staff outside of the classroom, but it is a child’s everyday life that is most affected by death. Therefore, teachers need something to help them explain death to children and continually support them though this difficult time. Using the experiences that I have had as a volunteer group facilitator at Friends Way child bereavement center in Warwick, Rhode Island, as well as the research that I have done on grieving children, I have created a program for teachers that can introduce death to elementary children. The program is titled Students Sharing Feelings of Grief: An Elementary Curriculum on Loss. The program is designed for all elementary students, not just those who have experienced a significant loss. All students can relate to losing something or someone, and they can use those experiences to contribute to this program. Students Sharing Feelings of Grief is a six-week program run by the classroom teacher for one hour per week. Each week, students will be read books that deal with issues such as sharing feelings, understanding death, remembering someone or something special, helping a friend who has had a loss, and other issues concerning death. They will also be doing activities that relate to the books and having discussions about their own experiences with loss. I hope that this will be something that elementary teachers can use to understand their grieving students and give all of their students to share their feelings and understand death.