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How does a school deal with bereavement? The perspective of a school chaplain The National School Chaplains Conference, 13-15 June 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "How does a school deal with bereavement? The perspective of a school chaplain The National School Chaplains Conference, 13-15 June 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 How does a school deal with bereavement? The perspective of a school chaplain The National School Chaplains Conference, June 2013

2 Note found on room door, Oxford, 1980 Your fathers dead. Ring home. The Head Porter

3 The inevitable and the traumatic Boy dies three days after accidentally ingesting rat poison. Boy talking to Thames Valley Police on phone kills himself with shotgun. Widowed biology teacher is found dead in bed (heart attack) by daughter on her eleventh birthday. Ex-pupil on gap year killed in car accident (mini hits wall). Ex-pupil on gap year killed in car accident (car hits tree). Boy hangs himself in his room at school. Parent shoots wife and daughter before setting fire to house and shooting himself.

4 A suicide at school Chaplains prioritiesQuestions/Issues The whole school community. The housemaster and his wife. The room-mate and his friends. Other boys in the house. The matron. The headmaster. The boys sisters and parents. Business as usual, stop the clocks or a middle way? The funeral arrangements. Who will manage pastoral care of the bereaved? Awkward questions and feelings: – Why did he do it? – Why didnt he talk to anybody? – Could we have done anything to prevent him? – What to do with the room in which he killed himself?

5 Preparing staff and pupils for the inevitable (Procedures, relationships and mind set - institutional and personal) RS/PSHE - Death and bereavement and the Problem of Evil The School Counsellor The Bereavement Group Abbey in the Remembrance Season School Bereavement Policy (INSET) Thoughts for the Day, reflecting on tragedy and disaster

6 The Bereavement Group History – A pupil initiative Purpose – Education (breaking the taboo) and therapeutic value. Practice – Tea and cake and comfy sofas. – Confidentiality. – Meeting frequency. – Difficulty of getting pupils to go along the first time. – Silence – the pregnant pause. – Girls are different from boys; emotional literacy. – Abbey – What does your father do?

7 A school bereavement policy Context Guidelines for breaking news about a death of a pupil or member of staff Things to consider in the days following the news of the death of a pupil Information sharing pathway Template of a letter informing parents of the death of a pupil or a member of staff

8 Bereavement Don'ts Dont think you have to be the person to help a bereaved person. Their friends may do a better job of providing support. Dont think you have to follow the bereavement policy. Play it by ear! Dont say Let me know if theres anything I can do to help. Do keep in contact so you know whether there is anything you can do to help. Dont try to find something positive about the persons death. Dont tell them that everything is going to be alright or that everything happens for a reason. Dont say you know how they feel. Dont say anything that implies a judgment about their feelings. Dont tell them what they should feel or do. Dont change the subject when they mention the person who died. Dont avoid the bereaved person.

9 Bereavement Dos - permission and acknowledgement Do let your concern be genuine. Do be available to listen. Do allow them to express as much grief as they are feeling at the moment, and are willing to share. Do encourage them to be patient with themselves, not to expect too much of themselves, and not to impose any shoulds on themselves. Do allow them to talk about the person who died, including any negative feelings they have toward the person who died. Do send a condolence card/an anniversary card. Do ask bereaved children how they would like teachers to act towards them. Do teach other children to know what to say and how to handle difficult emotional situations. Do allow children to compartmentalize school and home. Do make allowances for children who are grieving, though this can be complicated.

10 What would you do next? It is term time. The mother of two girls in the school suffers a stroke. She remains in intensive care in hospital for nearly two weeks without regaining consciousness. From the beginning, the girls have been told by their father that the prognosis is good. The decision is taken to turn off the life support system.

11 A pupil, both of whose parents are dead (father from a heart attack, mother from cancer when he was eleven years old) who is approaching his GCSEs, is underperforming academically and there have been a series of disciplinary issues. The boys housemaster comes to you for help.

12 On the school ski trip in the Easter holidays, a pupil has been found on the floor in her room. She has a head wound, perhaps incurred in a fall. She is unconscious. An ambulance is called. At the hospital the doctor assumes she has been drinking. It is altitude sickness. For 24 hours she remains in a coma. She dies without regaining consciousness.

13 It is Saturday morning. A member of staff has a heart attack while he is teaching. The pupils alert a teacher in the classroom next door. An ambulance is called. CPR is done until the paramedics arrive. Despite a speedy response, the member of staff is pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

14 Useful links For those wishing to write their own school bereavement policy: cy_schools.doc cy_schools.doc For those looking for lists of bereavement dos and donts:


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