School crisis response and grief support program available to local schools
Tragic events such as the recent mass shooting at a Florida high school are difficult for anyone to comprehend and process. Locally and across the country, we collectively mourn the loss of life every time such a senseless tragedy occurs. In addition, our own sorrow, fear and despair can be heightened as we watch and hear about the plight of grieving students, teachers and the affected community on the nightly news.
Following such a crisis, expert on-site support frequently plays an instrumental role in helping faculty, staff members and students navigate the painful experiences of trauma, grief and loss. Locally, the bereavement center at Hospice of the Western Reserve – now called Western Reserve Grief Services – has offered a Crisis Response Program to provide immediate, on-site crisis response to deaths in the school communities of Northern Ohio for more than 15 years.
The program has been utilized by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and many others. The services are available to any school system in the nonprofit agency’s service area. Trained bereavement professionals are available to provide on-site response. A single phone call from the school is all it takes to mobilize resources. In a typical year, trained grief and trauma support specialists from the organization deliver immediate on-site crisis support to 1,000 students and 250 adults.
“Schools must be prepared to respond to sudden, violent and traumatic deaths, such as car accidents, overdose deaths or shootings and suicides” said Diane Snyder Cowan, director of Western Reserve Grief Services. “Our partnership with schools allows them to more effectively address mental and emotional distress, reduce the likelihood of high-risk student behavior and return more quickly to productive teaching and learning.
“School personnel spend a good amount of time with the children, so in some respects, they become a second family,” Snyder Cowan said. “Their response in times of grief and loss can be extremely comforting and helpful to students. It is not unusual for students to approach teachers, coaches, school counselors and others in the school community about topics that are too painful for them to discuss at home.”
In coordination with the school, trained and experienced bereavement professionals are available to lead classroom, small or large group student discussions, hold informational meetings with parents, provide individualized sessions during a crisis response and offer guidance to teachers and staff. Follow-up services such as memorial activities, small support group interventions and educational programs are available as needed. Proactive services are also offered, including crisis response planning.
The program is one of the ways the nonprofit agency extends its expertise in end-of-life care and bereavement support to the community at large. Hospice of the Western Reserve is grateful for the financial support of individuals and other organizations, such as the Ridgecliff Foundation, for making the Grief Services for Schools Program possible. For more information on how you can ensure these important services are available for students, teachers, parents and school staff, contact Bonnie Robbins at 216-383-5258 or BRobbins@hospicewr.org. School administrators interested learning more are encouraged to visit the website: hospicewr.org/griefandloss, or call 216-486-6287.
Laurie Henrichsen is Public/Media Relations Manager for Hospice of the Western Reserve.