Dealing With Student Death – a time for grief, a time to get even stronger

It’s the day no Administrator wants to see.  It’s the day you hear horror stories about that you hope never comes close to you.  And then it strikes.

On Wednesday, a student where I previously worked lost his battle to cancer.  It was a highly publicized fight; the community continuously came together through spaghetti dinners, casino bus trips,  5K runs, and student-lead fundraising in the school. The community solidified behind him, and nobody ever stopped believing.  

We all know that he’s in a much better place, building on his massive sneaker collection and driving around a yellow Lamborghini (his favorite things – we chatted quite a bit). Now that he is not suffering anymore, how does a school move forward? 

In the midst of holiday festivities, dealing with grief can be especially difficult.   In middle school, this certainty runs the gauntlet – some cry, some vandalize, some take to the arts.  I have found that I’ll let students be students and let staff be staff. If and when they need me, services, resources, or anything else – – I am there for them.

 In any crisis, I get my ducks in a row: I gather resources and have them on-call for staff, I meet with my crisis team, I bring in other counselors from other buildings, and clear my schedule of things that can in the future. 

Some of my resources I use include:

[Thanks to Jerry Blumengarten ( @cybrayman1 ) for providing me additional resources]

In time, a school will transcend to normalcy. The school will also have that new balance of reflecting on the past, and looking towards the future.  A student who dies will never be forgotten by that class, school, or community.  Sure, a school will plant a tree, make a plaque, or something along those lines, but the student’s spirit will live forever.  The students and staff in this building will never forget this, and they will ensure that his legacy will live on.

Cancer is evil.  Everyone knows someone who has had it or has it.  Anyone who has had to deal with head on knows that the family presence is paramount for moving forward. A groundswell of support will flow from your friends, co-workers, and community members.  

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family in this time of need.  I especially am praying for his younger brother; he and I were pretty much lock-step when he was in school.  He has an awesome family at home and school that will tend to his needs.  Stay strong, bud. Mom and Dad need you right now. When you are ready to go back to school, you’ll get whatever you need; your school and community will never stop caring about you. 

::gives fist pound::


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