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I vacillated between a few titles for this post, and just kept coming back to "grief." There isn't any more colorful or flourishing way to wordsmith it. Grief is self-explanatory. So then the real question is why is it important to have a blog post on a school website purely about grief? Because it's a commonality we will all have to deal with. And you, dear school leader, are going to have to deal with it a lot. Your students will grieve the loss of family and friends. You may suffer the loss of a student or staff member. You will personally grieve the loss of students, whether in death or in prison or in abusive relationships or in a foster placement that pulls them from your care. So you better learn some skills to handle grief, because you're going to need it.

What does grief feel like?

Grief hits different people in different ways. As a leader, you need to be aware of your own emotions, but also recognize that others may experience grief differently. Some emotional and physical responses to grief include:

  • Anger

  • Anxiety

  • Crying

  • Depression

  • Fatigue

  • Guilt

  • Loneliness

  • Pain

  • Sadness

  • Trouble sleeping

Why won't grief just go away?

I don't actually have an answer to that imponderable, except that there are just so many reminders of our losses. Even the Mayo Clinic reminds individuals to be prepared for reminder of loss, and they come with a list of preparations people can make. They suggest that those who've suffered a loss be prepared, particularly at anniversaries or occasions they know will bring up the memory of the loved one. They suggest planning a distraction, focusing on the good, start new traditions, connect with others, and allowing yourself to feel all the emotions.

Be open to professional help

Whether or not you ever seek professional mental health assistance or therapy should not cloud your opinion or view of it. As a school leader, you need to be open to students and staff's needs, including when they may need professional help from a grief counselor. Be sure you have a plan and connections with appropriate counseling and are able to recognize the signs of a student or staff member suffering from grief.

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