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Your Well-being

Coping with grief and loss

New York Teacher

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
— Benjamin Franklin, in a letter from 1789

Loss is part of life. We experience many losses in the course of a lifetime, from the death of a partner, sibling, parent or child, to the loss of a pet, a job, a home or a relationship.

A death in a school community (the loss of a colleague, administrator or student) will affect the entire community. If your school has experienced a loss, the UFT’s Victim Support Program can support the staff.

While there are certain predictable stages of grief, it’s not always linear. People move in and out of many reactions, including numbness, shock, denial, anger, depression, sadness, fear, uncertainty and even losing the will to go on.

Children respond to loss differently than adults do. Younger children may need help understanding what has happened. Older students may need to talk about the experience and just express their range of emotions; it’s important to listen and offer support without minimizing the loss.

There can also be grief and mourning in situations where someone hasn’t died, but an expectation has, such as when parents discover their child has special needs, when a feeling of safety is lost after a trauma or when an election has not turned out as hoped for and expected.

Has a loss you have experienced affected your relationships in and out of work? Are you having difficulty concentrating? Is the loss affecting your job performance? The UFT’s Member Assistance Program has grief and loss group sessions beginning on Jan. 12 or MAP can help you find individual counseling.

Healthy ways to cope

  • Take care of your physical needs by eating balanced meals, drinking enough water, taking your medications, exercising regularly and seeking out healthy hobbies and activities.
  • Join a group with people who can relate to and validate your feelings of loss.
  • Avoid isolating yourself: Stay connected to friends and family or seek out new friends if needed.
  • Use a journal to write your thoughts each day.
  • Seek professional help if you feel overwhelmed.

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