Monday, April 23, 2012

This Is As Bad As It Gets

Those were the first words spoken this morning at an emergency faculty meeting. There is no beating around the bush when the Crisis Team is in your building.

Two weeks ago, a young man committed suicide. He had graduated several years ago, but his brother only last year. There was a small ripple of grief that traveled through our population, mostly in response to those who knew the brother, but the majority of our students were pretty far removed from that tragedy. We counseled, we moved on.

And we watched.

As you may know, a suicide if often followed by others. So we went on alert. We referred kids who were struggling and those who we thought would most likely be at risk.

On Saturday night, one of my cross country girls called me and told me said she didn't want me to read it on facebook or in a text. One of her teammates had just shot himself in the head.

We had not been watching him.

Grant was a member of my cross country team. He was a programmer on my robotics team. He was involved in the school play and musical. He is going to miss a golf meet tomorrow.

To say that this is a shock really doesn't even begin to describe it. No one saw this coming. Kids are having trouble accepting it. I am having trouble accepting it. I marked him absent this morning and wrote his name at the top of an extra lab paper. What I can't get past is the conversation we had last week. He had updated me on his progress learning the program we use for our robot. He was excited about it and thought he would have it all figured out next fall.

That makes this all the harder to accept.

Several of his close friends have moved on into the angry stage, but I can't get there yet. I'm not sure I can when I can't wrap my head around what could he possibly have been thinking.

This is one of the things that you don't learn about teaching until the day it happens. No one ever really tells you what you can say to those phone calls from young people in the middle of the night. Teaching children to deal with grief is not really something I signed up for, and I feel so completely unprepared for it. So, yesterday was spent crying with that group of kids who "accidentally" wandered by my house. We talked and worked through some of the pain, but I have no idea if I said any of the right things.

As they got up to leave, one of my kids just shook his head. He looked at me and said, "so, I guess life just goes on?"

Yes. Yes it does, for some of us.


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Unknown said...

Sending positive, healing thoughts your way. These are the things that you do not learn during student teaching...I don't think there is a right or wrong thing to say during a time like this. Your students need you and you need them. In my 16 years of teaching I have been through my fair share of tragic events. It is never easy to deal with...Just know, you have this place to share your thoughts and your readers are here to support you...

Erin said...

I am so sorry to hear about this loss of a wonderful young person. Your writing expresses almost exactly how I remember feeling on the two occasions when one of my students passed away. The students you talked with and cried with will remember how you were there for them, not any of the things you "should" have said.

They certainly don't teach you how to help students deal with grief (while you are grieving yourself) in grad school. You, Grant, and your students will be in my thoughts as you try to go on after such a terrible loss.

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Tracie Schroeder said...

Thank you so much to everyone who has reached out and offered support. It's funny how easy it is to forget how many people, whom I have never met in person, are willing to offer encouragement and to help move me forward. In so many ways, I don't know what I would do without you.

Jason Buell said...

I'm very sorry to hear about this. We had a staff member commit suicide last year and I wandered around in a fog for quite some time. We were lucky and had a week break not long after and many of us were able to clear our heads during that time. I wish I could tell you it goes away, but it doesn't. But like your student said, life goes on and it gets easier.

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