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Some Ideas/Suggestions

Friends, relatives, and neighbors are usually supportive at the time of a death and during the wake and funeral that follows. Food, flowers, and physical presence are among the thoughtful expressions. But after the funeral, many grieving people wonder where their friends are. In some ways they need support and caring from their friends even more when the reality hits and the long process of grief begins. Ways of helping grieving people are as limitless as your imagination. Some suggestions are:

  1. Drop-in center all day the first day where news of a sudden death is disseminated.
  2. More than one counselor/facilitator is needed in the group at one time; it's also a good idea to have others available for relief purposes.
  3. Co-facilitating is especially critical to maintain continuity, in spite of the "drop-in" process, for consultation in identifying high-risk students and for general support and help.
  4. Focus:
    1. Memories, positive experiences with person who died
    2. Feelings about loss
    3. Stages of grieving (grief education)-students may bring up spirituality
    4. Funeral and services-appropriate behaviors/concerns about experience
    5. Future-what next?
    6. Guilt work if needed, some need to focus on causation
    7. Family and friend's response (Kids often wonder "What can I do? How can I help?")
    8. Identifying others that the students are concerned about (provides them with an opportunity to help; gives them a purpose in crises; allows them to be part of a larger supportive community response
  5. Avoid focusing on:
    1. Narcissistic focus on suicidal thoughts, feelings, experiences, if the death was by suicide
    2. Constant talk about the actual death (morbid focusing)
    3. Blame
  6. Bring group to some closure the second day-avoid adding new members (may need to meet others on a one-to-one basis); probably will focus more on funeral and services.
  7. May need to reconvene after funeral for an hour to refocus on grief/loss; bring group to some closure again and offer various resources for on-going support.
  8. Remember throughout the course of group process, facilitators need to identify students with chronic problems around the issue of suicide/self-destructive behavior (regardless of the cause of the death) and to assess whether these youngsters need to be "pulled" from the group. If the students in question are identified as "chronic manipulative attempters" they must be removed from the group and their on-going counselor/therapist should be contacted.
  9. The counseling staff may want to consider the possibility of a "neighborhood group" in the evening to reach youngsters at all age levels (checking in with parents to see if there is a need).
  10. Finally, we suggest group work as a possibility for the whole system, K-12. Death impacts the whole educational community, not just one branch.
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