Today was the first day back to school after a student was killed in a car accident over the weekend. We tried to be prepared as we could be as a staff: we had our tragic response team in, extra counsellors, designated areas for discussion and grieving, a staff meeting to help with questions and a morning announcement and moment of silence for the students.
Even this preparation doesn’t always “prepare” you for student reaction. Many students chose to come to school to be with their friends and share stories. Former students also came when they knew counsellors were on hand. Some students have had very little experience dealing with death (and usually not a peer) and unfortunately some have too much experience dealing with tragedy – including peer suicide.
It was a tough day. The mood in the school was heavy and all students felt a loss whether they knew the student or not. What also helped students was that it wasn’t swept under the rug and staff offered to help whenever they could. Yes, we are not trained counsellors and those who needed extra guidance were referred. Some students felt uncomfortable talking to the tragic response team because they seemed like “strangers”. The staff supported each other as well as the students. I’m not trying to take some glory for a tragic incident, but the sense of family, community and support was so strong in our building today. Dealing with death can be hard, even taboo in years past, but we are recognizing the needs of students AND staff.
I would like to acknowledge and support what I deem our “first responders”. They listened, they helped dry tears, they focussed on moving forward, giving support, offering help, they offered a safe place in a time of anger, fear, the unknown. I hope the people who take those tough jobs realize how important they are and that those who remained in the classrooms are grateful to them and hope they have a way to process and decompress after a day like today.