Supporting our Students in Healthy Goodbyes

by Miryam
Once a month, Ms. Lulu and I lead Candy Tears, a grief support meeting for students. The topics we cover vary thematically throughout the year. As an example, at the beginning of a new year and in the Spring we focus on life and new beginnings; and similarly as we near the end of a school year we acknowledge that feelings of death, endings and loss can come up for us.

We ground ourselves with our structure: we start with mindfulness and somatic practice. We are always seated in a circle where we set up art supplies, plenty of plushies to hug, and lots of candies to indulge in - hence the name "Candy Tears". During the hour we play soothing music in the background, work on neurographic art to keep our hands busy and our minds focused as we answer the adult lead's questions. We also end with a zoom-out question to get ourselves back into a more joyful headspace.

We also discuss the similarities between physical and figurative death - like when people are no longer a part of our lives, we still mourn their loss, even though they're still alive. We've discussed events that are often processed emotionally as grief - like moving schools/homes or losing contact with someone.
Grief and loss is something that we will experience many times throughout our lives and Middle School is no exception. The end of each school year brings up the sense of loss for us as students graduate or when beloved faculty and staff from our SGS community move on as well. 
For this reason, it is important for students to talk to trusted adults.

When it comes to saying goodbye, there are ways that are healthy and ways that are not.  The one “must” with a healthy goodbye is that we actually allow ourselves to grieve. When we rush the process, grief will express itself in unpredictable and unpleasant ways: anger, irritability, denial, depression, and harmful coping strategies”  (Empowering Education).

While we hold space for healthy goodbyes in our Community Meetings and Class Meetings, we also intentionally create space for students to process these emotions in their advisories as well. As this school year has now come to an end, I encourage you to have a conversation with your student and use the following takeaways and resources to guide your discussion.
Some top takeaways from Empowering Education:
  • Taking Space: Taking a Mindful Moment allows us to calm our central nervous system. Taking space when grieving a loss is not a single event, rather it is a practice we come back to often. This takes as long as it takes. There is no time limit on saying goodbye. Taking space for ourselves and allowing others time to take space is a compassionate act. 
  • Name Your Emotions
  • Savor the Good Memories
  • Practice Gratitude
  • Create a Ritual: If someone special has moved away, what new ritual will you start to stay connected?  Rituals move us forward.
Family Resources:
A Webinar from the Institute of Child Psychology:  Grief, Loss & Everything In Between
Located in the Central District, Seattle Girls' School is an independent school for girls and gender nonconforming students in grades 5-8. Our mission is to inspire and develop courageous leaders who think independently, work collaboratively, learn joyfully, and champion change.