Few feel fully prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping the world. Indeed, as educators, we cannot ever fully prepare for the loss of a colleague, student, or family member.
Brooklyn LAB has been hit hard by the pandemic, and in the process of trying to make sense of how to support our school community, we greatly appreciated the insights and templates shared by our peer organizations and colleagues. It got us thinking about how we could share some of our experience with other education communities.
“During these most difficult moments, it’s important to have established norms and protocols regarding how to best communicate with and serve our school communities.” – Jonathan Flynn, Manager of Family Engagement and Community Affairs
We hope that no other school community finds themselves in the scenario of dealing with loss due to COVID-19, but because of our experience, our colleagues (with generous contributions from peer organizations) developed a COVID-19 Grief and Loss Resource Kit to help other schools navigate their own community loss.
“The impact of COVID-19 on our students, families, staff, and community members is harsh and unfair, often disproportionately so. We want to support your extended school communities during this time of anxiety, sadness, and grief.” – Greg Rodriguez, High School Director at Brooklyn LAB
“When a loved one is lost, we come together as a village. During social distancing, we can remain emotionally and mentally close through our virtual support: communicating our love and solidarity; listening to families and their wishes; sending care packages or meals; providing resources to cope with grief and trauma: and being a source of stability through the storm.” – Cecile Kidd, the Brooklyn LAB Bursar
The COVID-19 Grief and Loss Resource Kit includes the following documents to serve as guides for other school communities that can be adapted to suit their unique environments.
-Guidance on How to Handle the Loss of a Staff Member: Protocol for the communication of the loss of a staff member and appropriate resources to include
-Guidance on How to Handle the Loss of a Student or Parent/Primary Caregiver: Protocol for the communication of the loss of a student or parent/primary caregiver and appropriate resources to include
-Grief and Bereavement Resources: Resources for managing grief, counseling and therapy, self-care, and protecting mental health in the COVID-19 era
-How to Respond to the Loss of a Staff Member or Scholar (During Closure): A remote counseling support plan that identifies social workers and their availability, a universal contact number, and additional procedural guidance
-How to Respond to the Loss of a Scholar’s Family Member (During Closure): Remote counseling support plan that identifies standard procedures for the activation of social workers in the event of the loss of a scholar’s family member
-Letter to Families Communicating the Loss of a Staff Member: Template that includes reflections on the individual’s meaning to the community and information regarding funerals or other services
-Script for Informing Parents/Families of a COVID-19 Death in the School Community: A template for outreach via phone that includes condolences and information on support
-The Social Worker Support Call-Line Protocol: Guidance on how to set up a call line, how to approach and document calls, and resources for ongoing support
-Website Content Template: Information for your website that may help support your school community during this difficult time
-Letter to School Community: Template acknowledging grief and loss, expressing gratitude for commitment to students and families, and overviewing crisis response
What we learned/big takeaway
The impact of COVID-19 on our students, families, staff, and community members is harsh and unfair, and often disproportionately impacts low income communities and communities of color. During COVID-19 closures, many school communities are experiencing anxiety, sadness and grief.
It can be extremely helpful to establish norm and protocols to fall back on regarding how to best communicate with and serve our school communities experiencing loss and grief.
When a loved one is lost, the “village” of support becomes even more important.
Social distancing, newly instituted hospital policies, and travel restrictions could make it difficult to say goodbye to a loved one who passes in isolation and to gather for memorial rites.
What we are still figuring out
How do we connect with students, caregivers, and educators through practices and responses that are informed and aware of trauma?
What are the best ways to respond to grief and loss in a manner that maximizes physical and psychological safety, facilitates the survival and recovery of students and families, and supports their ability to thrive?
What are the evidence-based, culturally responsive assessments and treatments for traumatic stress and associated mental health symptoms which might be most impactful in the COVID-19 era?
What can schools do to engage in remote efforts to strengthen the resilience and protective factors of students and families impacted by and vulnerable to trauma?
What I would tell other leaders during this time
In the coming days, each of us are likely to feel worried and unnerved as the experience of grief and loss become more widespread. In the face of this concern, we will find ways to support each other as friends and colleagues and find ways to show up for students and families.
Please feel free to reach out if you need anything—we will make sure to connect you to someone who can help, or at the very least, listen.