Welcome to our podcast: Conversations About Student Mental Health.
I’m Chris Leonard, Clinical Social Worker working with adolescents for over 25 years. In this podcast, I talk with school administrators, educators, clinicians, and parents to open a dialogue that will help the growing number of students struggling with mental illness.
In our most recent episode, I discussed how to cope with fear and anxiety in the face of a global pandemic, with my fellow social worker and clinician Jon Riley.
In this episode, we’ll be focusing on another widespread pandemic experience: grief.
Grief is generally understood to be the complex combination of intense emotions and pain we experience in response to the death of a loved one, or another significant loss. Grief is a natural reaction to loss that is so universal, that it is experienced not only by humans, but by many animals: wolves, elephants, baboons, dolphins, magpies, and sea lions are just a few of the many species whose grief reactions have been studied and documented. Yet, despite the widespread experience of grief it is not widely understood.
The COVID-19 outbreak has really brought grief to the forefront, because nearly all of us are grieving in one or more ways. Many of us have loved ones who have died. Others have lost jobs, missed out on graduation ceremonies, or lost the daily social interaction that sustains us. We’ve been unable to engage in restorative activities such as going to restaurants, parties, concerts, shows, museums, parks, and, until recently, beaches. The list is long. What we’ve all experienced is the undeniable feeling that the future is uncertain. And that we really can’t know when, or if, things will feel normal again.
Life is never predictable, but we crave certainty, and can feel quite lost when we feel so deeply unsure about how the future will unfold. Today I’ll be talking with my guests Christina Jelly, an educator and community outreach coordinator, hello Christina.
… and Jon Brandt, a mental health advocate. Hello, Jon.
We’ll be talking about how grief has affected Christina and Jon during the COVID-19 outbreak. We’ll look at how grief affects young people, and how we can help.
So let’s jump right in. To start off, Christina and Jon, I know each of you has experienced a death in your family during this crisis. I’m wondering if you could share a little bit about your experiences with us, maybe Christina you want to take it first?
Yeah, sure. My experience happened very early on, before we were all under quarantine. So my great aunt, who is essentially my grandmother, was staying with my family, and my mom, to watch my daughter during the week when I was working. She came during the week of March 9th, was with us for a week, kinda had cold symptoms, no fever, nothing really going on, was pretty much her normal self.
And then on one day, March 15, we ended up having to take her to the emergency room because she was having a hard time breathing. And at that point, I wasn’t putting two and two together that it could be coronavirus related, because it was still pretty early on, especially given the information that we had at the time. And then sure enough, within 10 days, she passed away on March 25th.
During that 10 day time span, it was pretty interesting, the information that we were given, and what we went through in our family. Because we weren’t allowed to visit her, there was one day where they said one family member could’ve come in, and then within a couple of hours, we were given the information that we couldn’t.
We were really living day to day, just waiting for phone calls and updates about how she was doing. There was very little contact. It was very difficult for us. Going from someone who was so involved in our lives, and so healthy — she would’ve been 85 on May 17 — she was with my daughter, she was picking up a 30 pound baby, then all of a sudden, she was taken from us so quickly, and there was very little time to say goodbye and kind of process all of this.
To this day, I still kind of relive the moment where I dropped her off at the emergency room, and at that point my mom was hoping to go in with her. Thinking about how I was so preoccupied with getting everything in the car, and making sure they had Clorox wipes and gloves and all this other stuff, and they were doing the preliminary stuff with her and I didn’t even get to say goodbye, because she was so quickly put in a wheelchair and taken. So all those things were going on in the moment. Now looking back on it, you can kind of process it a little bit better. But yeah, it was pretty difficult, because she was taken from us so quickly. We didn’t really have a lot of time or connection with her, to say goodbye.
Yeah, it’s almost like the kind of experience somebody would have in an accident or something, where one day somebody’s there and the next day they’re not. And there’s no opportunity to do the kinds of goodbyes, or kinds of rituals that we’re accustomed to. So, I’m really sorry about how it played out.
I think the other part that was hard too was the aftermath. Traditionally, depending on your beliefs, but you have a wake, or funeral, or some sort of shiva, and we didn’t really get to have any of that because of all of the regulations that came out, and my family in particular because my dad is a stem cell transplant. So we couldn’t get together at all. There couldn’t be two of us, there couldn’t be three of us, we weren’t able to have any services, especially because at that point, the people who were in the house with her were considered carriers. So we had to be under strict quarantine for the next 2-3 weeks, and we weren’t able to have any services for her, and still haven’t been able to.
Which is kind of a loss in it’s own right. You’ve already lost a loved one, someone who was so close to you, and now you have to quarantine. So that just makes it even more profound. Jon, maybe you can share a little bit?
Sure. On April 9th, last month, my mom passed away. And it was an interesting process, very similar in some ways to Christina, and yet some things were different.
My mom was 87 and she had Alzheimer’s disease for about 5 and a half years. She had recently just moved from independent living to a facility for memory care, where my father lived the floor below her in independent living. We moved her in January to memory care. She was actually doing very well, she was eating, and we were very comfortable with the move, and felt that she was improving in some ways. Not that she was herself, but she was healthy.
And then right around March 15 was when the country, especially staying in NJ, shut down. They stopped allowing visitors to come and see her. There was a COVID outbreak in the building on the floor below her. And they wanted to keep all the patients safe and away from us and people who could come up there and bring the disease there. They didn’t know very much early on. Nobody could visit, and I think during those 3 weeks without seeing her, she really deteriorated. And we never had a chance to see her awake.
We were called right around April 6th, that she wasn’t doing well. Up to that, we were told that she was doing fine, that she was eating, and so forth, but frankly, she went down in 3 days, from being bedridden, to passing away. And to this day, we don’t know whether it was the COVID virus, because she wasn’t tested for it. She had hospice come in over those 3 days, to be with her. And we were able to go up and see her, in the last 3 days. But we don’t know to this point whether she had the virus. They went right to hospice, so it feels very incomplete on how she died, whether the dementia she had was a big part of it.
And the second story, like Christina had mentioned, for us, we were only allowed 3 people. Me, my brother, and my father, we were the only ones, we had the cemetery to say goodbye. It was very surreal, the whole thing happened very quickly, we didn’t expect it. But at the same time, I feel a little bit comforted that she didn’t suffer as much from the dementia, Alzheimer’s. She had times when she was lucid, and times when she kind of remembered things and then forgot things, but it was getting worse, so she was having struggles with that. So, we were glad she wasn’t in pain anymore.
There are really some common threads between your stories, and then some unique differences. That inability to say goodbye, the lack of access to usual kinds of rituals and gatherings that we can go through. And then the difference: the sense that Christina and her family had that her aunt was going to be with them indefinitely, and then the mixed bag that your family experienced, Jon, where there was some measure of, “ok well at least she’s not suffering anymore.” But definitely both experiences made all that much more complex by the social distancing and the inability to get together.
Typically we know that people can go through 5 recognizable stages of grief. These were introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. And these stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
I was wondering if we could talk a little bit about how you’ve seen these manifested, even if it was just one of them. And I’m wondering how these stages of grief align with your experience — what it may have looked like or felt like for you or somebody you love. And anything you may have noticed about this, I think would be useful for us to look at. Jon, you want to take this one?
Sure. Yeah, those 5 stages, I’ve certainly felt them all at some point in this process. I think we’re all dealing with some type of grief, even if it’s the loss of what our life was prior to the pandemic. And the temporary situation we’re in now.
But yeah, I did experience them. One area was the denial that was happening, because the world was, and is, in flux. It was just a ton of, “wow, maybe this isn’t really happening.” The mind does really go through this process.
I had a feeling of anger, that they didn’t know if she had COVID or not. Why didn’t they test her, I asked. And the feeling of depression, of course, losing a loved one. I don’t know if I’m at the stage of acceptance fully yet. I know my dad isn’t, my father who’s 80 years old. He’s still mourning and feeling all of those stages. So I’ve seen it in someone who was married for 68 years, who lost his wife. Which is totally understandable, but I don’t think the acceptance part has really come around yet.
That’s an important point. I think a lot of people struggle with the stages of grief because, first of all, people assume that we go through them in a particular order. And I think people are also assuming that there are certain time frames that they follow.
The truth is that we don’t necessarily experience them in any particular order. We tend to go back to a stage that maybe we’ve gone through and kind of revisit it. And that whole notion of acceptance — people tend to think acceptance means we feel it’s okay. And with most losses, I don’t think we ever get to a point where we feel “oh, this is okay with me.” It’s more like “okay this really happened” and now I’m kind of coming to terms with it. But grief is something we revisit again and again and again over our lifetime. So these are some really important points. Christina, what are your thoughts?
Yeah, it’s funny — I’m thinking about the 5 stages and I went through a lot of that when she initially went to the emergency room, and was placed into ICU and was put on a ventilator, and it all happened so fast. During the 10 day window where we were just waiting for phone calls for updates, and we’d have little glimmers of hope like, oh, her oxygen levels went up, she’s doing better. And then the next day it’s like, nope, she took a turn for the worse. It’s in a matter of a couple hours. I think I really went through those stages at that point.
I was kind of preparing myself for the worst, but wouldn’t admit that it was happening. And I think a large part of the bargaining process is I was thinking to myself, “please, someone just give us a miracle. If you let this happen…” I can’t tell you how many prayers I said. Because she was such a good person. So for her, for this to happen to her, I couldn’t understand why. I couldn’t justify it. I was angry. I hated the coronavirus, I still kind of do.
It’s funny. I was saying to a couple of my coworkers, imagining if I put myself in my student’s shoes, especially transitioning back whenever we get to. I considered myself to be a pretty mentally healthy person, kind of capable of a lot, pretty self aware. But I knew if I put myself back into my teenage body and I was back at school, I don’t know if I could’ve handled it if someone made a joke. Or someone was messing around talking about the virus and certain things, and making comments.
I think I have a really poor reaction to it, even now. I heard a friend of mine make a really poor taste joke, and I couldn’t deal with it, and I had to leave the room. And it was all through video. We were doing an online trivia night, but I couldn’t be there anymore, and I decided to remove myself from the situation because of how much it hit home for me. Denial was big, I just couldn’t believe it was happening.
My mom and I, we were in it together, going through all of this. And my husband too. My aunt’s name was Lola Betty, that’s what we called her (Lola means grandma, so we called her Lola Betty). We couldn’t conceptualize that this could happen to someone who was so incredible, and so giving and loving. She lived doing so much for others, so for a virus to take her so suddenly and like this, it was just hard for us to come to terms with what was happening.
And I think we experienced depression. I found that some things were much more difficult: trying to get up, maybe you don’t really want to wash your face all the time or do certain things, and you didn’t really see a point to things. But I think one of the things that really helped me was my 2 year old. My 2 year old daughter, having to be awake for her, and seeing the joy in her face kind of helped me remember how much joy she brought to my Lola Betty and how much joy Lola Betty brought to her. That kind of helped me through that time.
I think it was much more difficult for my mom, because she knew her much longer than she knew her own mother. Her story is a little bit more difficult. Talking about the family members (and Jon was talking about his dad), this was definitely more difficult for my mom. She had to go through all this without her rock, which is the best way I can put it, because she had to be distant from my father because she couldn’t be around him.
She’s the primary caregiver for him because he’s the stem cell transplant, and she wasn’t able to process all this stuff with him. So as much as I was able to help her through things, she wasn’t able to be with her husband who would typically help her through this. They were high school sweethearts (well, they still are). I think it’s much more difficult for her, in a sense, because her supports weren’t there. And especially during these times, to be with your family and to have that level of support is so critical, and we weren’t able to do that except for over the phone or video call. Just a matter of having that hug sometimes makes all the difference.
And I don’t think any of us are at acceptance yet. I have my little moments where I think I might be, and I definitely think taking a step forward kind of helps with that. We went to her house the other day, so I think that kind of helped, in a sense, to give us some sort of closure. In a time where you can’t really get any.
Jon, any thoughts?
It’s really difficult to get closure on a lot of this stuff. And again, like you said, Chris, closure is a tough thing. It’s not final. That’s just my thought around that.
Yeah, it’s not final and it takes a while, when you’ve lost somebody suddenly. And these were both sudden losses. When you’ve lost somebody suddenly, I think it takes a while before the reality of it even sinks in. I lost two people very close to me in my life to accidents. One was in a coma for about a week, one was killed instantly. And in both cases for months after the person died, I would have dreams and I would wake up from the dream convinced that they were still alive. And you know, just to come to terms with the fact that the person is even gone is so hard. Like you were saying, Christina, your aunt was larger than life, it’s so hard to bridge that with the notion that she has died, and it’s so difficult to come to terms with that.
Yeah, my mom was just saying to me the other day, that she still thinks my aunt is going to call her. Because they spoke so much on the phone, it’s odd for her because sometimes she wakes up and she thinks she’s still going to call me today.
I lost my brother 12 years ago to suicide. And the interesting thing is, I still sometimes wake up and think he’s still around. So it really does take a long time. And I don’t think it’s ever final, I think you get a little more seasoned with the situation and understanding. You’re not in the grief stage anymore, but you certainly still miss that person. So when anybody says closure to me, I just don’t really understand that or get that.
It’s a really important point. It really is just this thing that keeps unfolding throughout our lives, and it revisits us at the most unexpected times. Christina, when you were talking a few moments ago, you alluded to something that was helpful to you, which was being there for your daughter. And I’m sure you have other things as well. Jon, I wonder if you could share a little bit about what was helpful to you, and then Christina, if you have additional thoughts you can add in after Jon.
Like Christina said, it’s hard to do many things, especially when you’re feeling blue. And then you get the pandemic going on. But for me, it was like fighting to stay consistent with myself, and really practice getting up in the morning, showering, getting work done, trying to complete things. Not to block out the situation, but just to maintain a sense of feeling good about yourself. Including exercising and so forth. So for me, those were the main things I tried to do. That I’m still doing, to maintain myself through this including the pandemic that’s going on.
In my daughter’s eyes, you know, she’s home and stuck with us, away from school, so I’m doing it for her as well. Which seems to be working, we’re getting along really well. Part of that is all of us maintaining a positive attitude.
For me, a large part of it is crying. That was definitely helpful for me. Sometimes I screamed into a pillow occasionally. When you get over those initial things, sometimes they keep happening, and it hits me at different times.
What’s also been helpful during this period has been my support system network. Whether it’s my coworkers, my family, my friends, the amount of support I got from people really helped me to deal with this. And just being able to talk to people. And it wasn’t ever like someone pressured me to speak about it, but they just always let me know that they were there, and when different people would reach out, or it was kind of the little moment that I had, being able to talk to people and process things really helped me.
There’s this loop that we go on by our house, and it’s a mile walk, and hy husband and I call it our therapy session. And that’s so important and critical for me, to just have that time to just clear my head, process everything I’m going through, talk about it, in a non judgemental space, get everything off my chest. We’ve had some pretty deep conversations. And I do think that’s a large part of it too, to kind of process everything I was going through.
Another thing that was helpful was that I wrote her a letter on her birthday, because she would’ve been 85 on May 17th. So writing, too, allowed me to say everything that I wanted to say to her and everything that I wish I had said. I don’t want to say you feel guilty about it, but things you wish you would’ve done or wish you would’ve said before it happened. I had my time to write to her and tell her what I would’ve said, to just put it out there. Sometimes it’s as simple as journaling. Other times I actually wrote something like an Instagram post, but I didn’t have to post it to the world to see. I just wanted it to be written somewhere for a temporary moment, for her to see it or for her to know it was there and to put it out there. So that was a couple of things that’ve been helping me so far.
That’s great. Between you, Jon and Christina, you’ve provided a good checklist of things that people can do to take care of themselves in the face of loss.
One of them is being there for others and remembering to be there for others. Another is attending to routines, and in particular, routines of self-care. A third one would be allowing yourself to experience the full range of emotions that you’re having, and recognize that all of those emotions are just emotions and they’re not things to correct or try to get rid of, but really to experience. The fourth is to talk with others, talk and listen. And then finally there’s that talking to the person who you’ve lost, you know, whether it’s writing a letter or a journal or something or even just talking out loud. There’s all sorts of ways that we can talk to people we’ve lost.
Those are all really excellent ways of dealing with grief, so thank you for sharing those.
One of the things that we wanted to touch on today is the experience of children and how to help them through grief. One thing we know is that children may grieve in ways that are distinctly different from the ways in which adults grieve. Or in ways that are easily recognizable.
There are some misconceptions about the way children grieve as well. We do know that children grieve, but one way in which it may look different is that some children may seem not to react at all. But sometimes a child who is not reacting may perceive that he or she doesn’t have permission to talk about what’s going on, because nobody else is talking about it.
We all try to protect kids and sometimes our efforts to protect them give him a message that this is something we’re not going to talk about. So a way to engage the silent child might be to talk about how you are feeling. The other thing that kids do is that they sometimes grieve during brief intervals or at an unexpected time. For instance, a child whose grandmother died months ago may experience a routine fall down the slide on the playground, and get up crying and say “I miss Grandma,” out of nowhere. So I’m just wondering about anything that either or both of you have noticed about how children grieve, and maybe any advice that you might offer parents and caregivers.
You’re right Chris, children do grieve so differently. Years back my brother in law passed away, my sister’s husband, and the kids were very young. So my nephew and I spent a lot of time together, and we discussed a lot of things about his father. But it’s interesting the way he was holding onto things. There was a time when he was playing sports, as a young guy, and broke his arm. When he came running back to the sidelines after breaking his arm, he actually said “I miss my dad.” It was in that crying feeling of being in pain, that his emotions came out. Which didn’t show up until then.
At the time I thought he was doing well, but seeing that I thought he needed real tactics to express his emotions. He did the talking, but he never expressed his emotions, and the crying and the sadness broke through. And then when we saw that water start flowing, we sat him down and said, “It’s ok to do that, buddy. You can continue to do that.” So that was when I noticed that children and adults all react differently to it. I absolutely see that with children. Once it opens up, you need to maintain that with the child, and let them know it’s ok to do that.
Yeah, I completely agree Jon. I think grief is different for everyone. And I think especially with children, it’s very unpredictable. One may think they’re going to go through that rhythm. Sometimes it might be frustrating for themselves because they don’t understand what happens in themselves either, or what might trigger something, or what might remind them of something. And then they finally allow them to feel those emotions.
I know especially with children, some might need to step into almost like a parenting role. They have to be the role models for younger kids or someone else in the family. So maybe they’re not allowed to process those things, because they think “I have to stay strong for everybody, I have to be this person, I have to be the rock for everyone.” And then at some point, they’ll have that moment where it’s as simple as falling down on the playground, and maybe they fail a test, or the teacher makes a comment, or a friend makes a comment and something happens, and then it opens them to kind of have that moment.
So I think it’s really important for parents, caregivers, anyone who’s really working on children, to be mindful of situations that could be going on or information that you are privy to. Keep that in mind, because sometimes there’s a lot underneath certain behaviors and actions that happen, that we may not all be considering. Sometimes you can get wrapped up in your own self and things that are going on for you. Try to be mindful of the students and the children you interact with, and know that they could have a moment and you could be that person they open up to. And realize how important it is to allow them to feel their feelings and just talk to them. And be there for them, and be that support person for them. They may not have had that, when the initial trauma or the initial moment has happened. So I think the important thing is just having an open mind and being there and being supportive.
That’s great. Just to sum up, you were talking about how so often the grief emerges in an unexpected way or in an unexpected moment, and that one of the things that we need to do is we need to be ready for those opportunities and let them express what they’re feeling and encourage them to express what they’re feeling. And then the other point you were making is to really think about the meaning of this experience for this child, and how this loss might impact them and their family. And then that piece about behavior. Behavior is like an iceberg, right, because sometimes our behavior seems larger than life. But whatever we’re seeing, that behavior is really just the tip of the iceberg and we can’t even see 90% of what’s going on that’s leading to that behavior. So being serious about what lies underneath and what might this be about for this person helps us to be there for them in the most helpful manner.
At the beginning of this podcast, I mentioned that grief is really a normal response to loss. And one of the stages of grief is depression. But sometimes a situation in which a person is grieving can really cross over into a deeper, more sticky depression. A question for us to look at is how we know when a person needs mental health intervention, so I’m wondering what your thoughts are on that?
My dad who’s elderly and lost his wife, he seems depressed and we’re monitoring that now. We’re having him talk to a therapist, just to get some thoughts on where he is in the stages of grief. But I also think about grief as we said in the beginning: grief isn’t just the loss of a person, it could be the loss of what life was.
I know a lot of adults going through feeling depressed over this pandemic. Whether it’s a loss of jobs or so forth, and I can only imagine how children are feeling. And how that effect is much higher in the younger generation. We’re all in uncharted territory right now. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen tomorrow. Our kids don’t know if they’re going back to school in the fall. We know for the foreseeable future they’re not going to school. It’s a very interesting situation and I can see that grief and fear of the unknown are developing into depression. And I guess trying to figure that out is probably the biggest obstacle that we have: to understand where this child or where this adult is on the scale of feeling that way.
Those are good thoughts.
We talked about the things we’ve been doing to help us go on day to day. Routines, or whatever it might be, I know for myself, it was difficult to make the transition back to work, but I set myself up a goal and said, “ok, today’s the day, you’ve done it, you can do this,” and set that short term goal for myself. It gets a bit easier, especially when you get back to those routines of normalcy.
When you’re thinking about when a person might need a mental health intervention, it’s when those feelings of grief are consuming, whether it’s from a loss in the family or it’s just the loss of something you were looking forward to, graduation, the school year, or anything. It’s when it consumes you. So when the person kind of perseverates on it a little bit too much, and that’s the only thing that they can focus on during the day. And then they slowly start to withdraw themselves from family activities: they’re not coming downstairs for every meal, they’re not engaging with their family like they used to, they’re not calling their friends as much. Their friends reach out to them, and they don’t get a response sometimes. Maybe your eating habits change, you go to the fridge and pantry a little bit too much, maybe you’re not really eating at all and you’re spending all your time underneath your sheets and staying away from everybody because that’s just easier for you.
I think it’s ok to have those times, but when it’s consistent over a significant time period, and when it starts to really impact your daily living and daily function, that’s a sign of a problem. I think it’s important to talk to others and have a support network, but when you don’t have those things in place, and you’re not self aware, you have an inability to talk about what you’re going through, that’s when these other signs can start to pop up. And that’s the indicator that you do need more help and levels of intervention to help you through what you’re going through.
I know at least for me personally, I said going on my walks are like my therapy sessions, and I truly believe that, and it’s so important for me and my mental health. Because I’m exercising, I’m getting outside, I’m limiting my screen time, I’m enjoying nature, and bonding with my husband and my daughter. But if I didn’t have those moments I think personally I would definitely seek a mental health professional whether it’s a therapist, a mental health advocate, anybody just to talk to because I think that’s an important process.
Excellent. So, you’ve both hit on some important things to look for: certainly if a person starts to isolate or withdraw. They’re not talking, they’re not engaging. Inability to perform any activities of daily living, getting out of bed, taking care of oneself, or changes in eating habits, either eating a lot or not eating at all. Certainly suicidal thoughts would be a red flag. And then even a sudden change in somebody’s demeanor, because sometimes when somebody is really in crisis, they’ll get unusually cheerful. And that can actually be a sign sometimes, when they’ve been really in this terrible place and then all the sudden, out of nowhere, they’re cheerful. Sometimes a suicidal person can get to that point when they made up their mind if they’re going to carry out a suicide. So that is something to look for.
But of course, if we have any doubts it’s a good idea to check in with a mental health professional. So in a nutshell, during this time we’re dealing with these circumstances that are shifting almost daily, and it’s so important for us to check in with friends and loved ones, frequently. Daily. And now I think we’re all hopeful at the prospect of reopening. And this is good. We’re all going to need to remain attuned for signs that those in our care may need some extra support moving forward.
It’s almost time for us to end for today but, Christina and Jon, I’m just wondering if you have any other thoughts that you’d like to share?
I just wanted to say that with everything my family’s been through, that I’ve been through, and seeing this strength (especially in my students), and seeing the things that people are managing day to day… it’s just important to remember that it’s not permanent. This too shall pass. We’re going to move one, and things are going to be ok.
The things I think about a lot now are, how would my Lola Betty want me to live my life? She wouldn’t want me to dwell on this. I’m going to miss her, obviously, every single day, but I think about how she lived her life and what she did for other people, and how I can kind of carry that on. So I would just tell people to be supportive of one another, be respectful of one another, really support each other during tough times, and really focus on you. I think now’s an important time where you can take the time to be selfish a little bit and maybe you pick up a hobby, or maybe you focus on something you always wanted to start, like a new skincare routine. Maybe you wanted to pick up training for a marathon. Whatever it is, you kind of have the time right now to allow yourself to focus on yourself because you’re worth it. So that’s what I would say.
Good stuff. Jon?
Whether it’s losing a loved one and grieving that or anything traumatic in our lives, I’ve always learned one thing: that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You may not see it right now. But the sun does come out. And I think it’s helpful to know that and be steadfast in understanding that things will get better and things will change.
When I said the closure on somebody’s life, I don’t call that actual closure. But I think there’s a point where, I look back and I think of that person and I think, “wow, I should look at not their death, but their life.” So I think for me, it’s always been pushing for that, even though the present situation doesn’t look good, there is another day. It may not feel like it’s tomorrow, but there is another day, and there is another day to rise up. So I want to express that for everyone, whether it’s adults or children, going through a grief situation right now, it’s totally understandable. But at the same time, we have to put it in perspective and realize that, as Christina said, this too shall pass.
Yes, it really is important to remember that this is not a permanent situation. And that whole idea of things being inpermanent, it’s hard. It’s part of what makes it hard for us to cope with loss, because we want a sense of permanence with some things. When it comes to people we love, we want them to be permanent. When it comes to situations like a loss or grieving or pain or coronavirus, we want it to go away. We don’t want it to last and we do know that it won’t.
But Christina and Jon, I really want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, and sharing your own experiences and thoughts. This has been really helpful information for our listeners. And listeners, I want to thank you for listening and please do join us for future conversations about student mental health. Goodbye for now.
Conversations About Student Mental Health is brought to you by Sage Thrive, partners in school-based mental wellness.
You can find the show notes on our website at www.sagethrivetoday.com. You can also suggest topics for upcoming episodes of the podcast; we’d love to know what issues related to student mental health you want to hear more about.
Christopher J. Leonard, MSW, LCSW, M.ED.
Chris Leonard is Director of Operations for Sage Thrive and the Sage Day Schools. He is an experienced teacher, school administrator, social worker and psychotherapist with over 30 years of experience working with children, adolescents, and families. Mr. Leonard is married with two daughters and enjoys distance running, mountain and road biking, hiking, and the outdoors.