It is a question we can all answer. Where were you when Kennedy was shot? Where were you when the Twin Towers fell? I remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Lennon, entering the classroom after lunch with tears in her eyes to tell us that President Reagan had been shot. Public tragedies hit hard and become a common experience we all share.
In Colorado, the news of the Columbine attack came as I was on my way to a go-kart racing facility. I happened to be riding with the Chief of Police for our small town because he was on the Board of Directors for the non-profit I worked for at the time. We were planning a charity go-kart race that would help support a mentoring program for at-risk youth. Ironic that we would be discussing and planning programs to support these kids who were often victims of bullying while listening to the Columbine news unfold on the radio. I will always remember every detail of that day from the smell of the go-kart tires to the sound of the Velcro on the racing suit. It was April 20, 1999.
Let’s be honest, it is uncomfortable to talk about death. And we are always and regretfully unprepared when it does happen. Especially when it occurs in a school. These are public institutions that are focused on education, supporting youth and creating positive learning environments, but then the unthinkable happens.
Author and Psychologist, Dr. Luciano Sabatini has written a book (Bereavement Counseling in the School Setting) that helps in these situations. He says, “We are a death phobic society that does not help its citizens deal with the most important issue of all: the death of those we love and our own death. I do not know of a public school district that provides their students a unit on death education to elementary or secondary students. It is no wonder that when a death does occur, we seem so helpless and ill-equipped to deal with it.”
Of course I hope you never need this book, but if you do, it is here. Or if you know a friend, teacher, counselor, neighbor or student who would benefit, this is a book to share. Here are all the details:
Bereavement Counseling in the School Setting: We are a death phobic society. Consequently, we provide very little help to our citizens in dealing with the one common denominator that we all face; the death of those we love. The paucity of death education programs in our elementary and secondary schools is evident of our death avoidance culture. Although many of our schools do attempt to assist the thousands of children and adolescents yearly who lose parents, siblings and other loved ones, their efforts tend to focus on how to assist the newly bereaved student in the days immediately following the loss. Very few schools have a long term approach that extends far beyond the immediate crisis, seeking to assist students with the life altering changes that follows the death of a family member.
Dr. Luciano Sabatini, a former school counselor and director of guidance, offers a guide to school based professionals, especially those involved in crisis counseling, on how to assist students through crisis intervention teams, educational awareness and support groups. He shares his experiences in working with bereaved students and what he has learned from them in coming to terms with a devastating loss. He also offers school leaders best practices in supporting grieving students and in managing a school grieving the death of a student.
This book is available for purchase on Amazon or can be ordered through any bookstore.
Dr. Sabitini’s website offers more information: www.empoweringthebereaved.com. Besides teaching graduate courses at Hofstra University, he also facilitates workshops for educators and will do trainings for mental health agencies, non-profits, schools and other organizations looking for help in this area.