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Managing Bereavement in the Classroom

The article of Lowton and Higginson is concerned with the fact that there is little existing literature on children’s bereavement in the school setting. Existing literature documents the experiences of bereaved children through questionnaires and interviews. The authors’ concern in exploring bereavement in the school setting can be traced from the estimate that many children in the United Kingdom get bereaved every day due to the death of a parent or, rarely, of a classmate, sibling, teacher, or grandparent.

Moreover, they believe that such topic is important because children spend a huge part of their lives in schools (Lowton & Higginson, 2003). Thus, in order to determine the problems involved in dealing with bereaved children in schools, the authors sent letters to staff members of primary and secondary schools in London to seek advice on managing situations involving bereaved children. Through interviews with specific topic guides, the authors were able to collect information in teachers’ management and experiences of bereaved children.

They then analyzed the teachers’ answers based on three themes, namely, the societal influences on the impact of children’s bereavement, practical management of bereavement issues by teachers, and the impact on bereaved students and on their teachers (Lowton & Higginson, 2003). The authors found that British society is generally silent, which means that students do not often inform their teachers or classmates that someone close to them had died. This restricts the management of bereavement in school. Nevertheless, the school setting is important because it lends a feeling of normality, safety, and routine to bereaved children.

The authors also found that parents and teachers find it difficult to communicate with bereaved children. This leads them to recommend the exploration of new ways of involving children in schools’ efforts of managing bereavement (Lowton & Higginson, 2003). Papadatou, D. , Metallinou, O. , Hatzichristou, C. & Pavlidi, L. (2002). Supporting the bereaved child: teacher’s perceptions and experiences in Greece. Mortality 7(3), 324-339. The article of Papadatou, Metallinou, Hatzichristou and Pavlidi discusses children’s bereavement in Greece, particularly the perception of Greek teachers on the phenomenon (2002).

The authors note that understanding how teachers perceived children’s bereavement is significant since literature on the matter support the theory that support systems available during the mourning process generally define the effect on bereaved children (Papadatou, Metallinou, Hatzichristou & Pavlidi, 2002). Since bereaved children need a caring environment to share their experiences and feelings, the authors thought of the school as having an important role by allowing children to have a sense of stability and safety within its bounds.

Thus, the authors conducted a national study to have a clear grasp of the experiences of Greek educators in dealing with bereaved children (Papadatou, Metallinou, Hatzichristou & Pavlidi, 2002). The authors obtained a representative sample from Greek schools, which were randomly selected based on specific criteria. Questionnaires were then distributed to educators in the participating schools, and their answers were evaluated and analyzed through the statistical package for social sciences (SPSS) (Papadatou, Metallinou, Hatzichristou & Pavlidi, 2002).

Respondents in the study gave answers that showed that death is a significant topic for children and the death of someone they know affects their behavior and academic performance. Moreover, most of the respondents felt that they lacked adequate training in providing support to bereaved students, and they believe that a school has “key providers” of support to bereaved children, namely, the teacher or the school psychologist (Papadatou, Metallinou, Hatzichristou & Pavlidi, 2002). Reid, J. K. & Dixon, W. A. (1999). Teacher Attitudes on Coping with Grief in the Public School Classroom. Psychology in the Schools 36(3), 219-229.

The article of Reid and Dixon, on the other hand, studies the perceptions of teachers from the United States on the topic of children’s bereavement. The aim of this study is to replicate the study previously conducted by Pratt, Hare and Wright in 1987. The authors went further by including teachers of older students and using a standardized instrument in determining attitudes toward death. This standardized instrument is the “Death Attitude Profile – Revised” (Reid & Dixon, 1999). Thus, the authors conducted the study with the help of school employees from north Texas and southeastern Oklahoma.

The authors used an untitled survey cited by Pratt, et al. , which involved 26 questions that deal with important bereavement issues. The authors found findings similar with the other articles. They noted that teachers are generally uncomfortable in communicating with bereaved students. However, the authors point out that teachers at the college level need not worry since there are courses on human development or developmental psychology, which could help students deal with bereavement (Reid & Dixon, 1999). All the articles study bereavement of children in the school setting; they only differ in their locations.

The first one analyzed data in London, England, the second one in Greece, and the third one in the United States. All the articles conclude that teachers feel they are generally inadequate in managing bereavement among their students. All articles also explored data through surveys, questionnaires, and interviews. Basically all articles had no significant differences, as they essentially used the same methods and found similar conclusions. They all endeavored to understand how teachers perceive children’s bereavement, and provide suggestions and recommendations based on their findings.

All articles also agreed on the conclusion that the school is a significant setting for the adjustment of bereaved children, considering that children spend a lot of time in school. Since there is essentially no conflict in the findings of all articles, it is best to simply follow the authors’ suggestion, consisting of further exploration and study of teachers’ perception and management of children’s bereavement in the school setting, with the view in mind of making teachers more effective support persons for children.

References

Lowton, K. & Higginson, I. J. (2003). Managing Bereavement in the Classroom: A Conspiracy of Silence? Death Studies 27, 717-741. Papadatou, D. , Metallinou, O. , Hatzichristou, C. & Pavlidi, L. (2002). Supporting the bereaved child: teacher’s perceptions and experiences in Greece. Mortality 7(3), 324-339. Reid, J. K. & Dixon, W. A. (1999). Teacher Attitudes on Coping with Grief in the Public School Classroom. Psychology in the Schools 36(3), 219-229.

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