As we start a new week with the news that we have lost one of our students, Elana Stein, I would like to offer some information to help you assist our students in the grieving and healing process.
Counseling Services will offer extended walk-in hours, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday this week. If you are concerned about a student, please encourage him/her to drop by our office and a counselor will be available to see them. If those times are inconvenient for the student, please call the office and we will work to accommodate the student with an appointment. Counseling Services is located on the lower level of Appel (the entrance is on the Buchanan Park side of the building).
Keep in mind that while Elana’s roommates, sorority sisters and close friends will naturally be affected by this loss, there are others who will also be affected:
The friends & roommates of the people closest to Elana
Students who have experienced recent deaths of loved ones
Students who may have experienced a similar loss of a friend
Students who are already in a vulnerable state.
Please be aware of students who may be struggling and check in with them. If they need additional assistance, please refer them to Counseling Services or the College Chaplain.
Below are some suggestions, adapted from other counseling centers, to help you address Elana’s death in your interactions with students.
Please feel free to contact our office with any specific concerns or if you need to consult about a situation (717-291-4083).
Responding to a Death on Campus – Tips for Faculty and Professional Staff
When a death occurs in a college community, it affects the entire campus on many different levels. One place the effects are frequently felt is in the classroom, regardless of whether or not class members knew the student who died. The following list is meant to offer suggestions for what you, as faculty or professional staff members, might do to help our students through this difficult time. Be aware, that there is no “right” way to respond to death and loss: each person deals with loss differently. Different reactions can occur based on religious beliefs, personal experiences, and an individual’s own emotional state prior to the event.
What you can do:
1. Keep yourself informed with the facts. Students will be looking to you for information and support. Be ready to dispel any rumors or confusion that may surface.
2. Plan your response.
· How well known was the student who died?
· Did class members know the person or are they members of groups that were more directly affected?
· Was the death expected?
· Where and how did it occur?
Deaths that directly affect class members, are unexpected, on campus, or that follow other recent tragic events can be particularly traumatic and may require more in-class attention.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask how your students are doing in relation to the recent tragedy, and let your discussion of the recent events follow from the response(s) you receive. Consider opening your class discussion by:
· Sharing your own feeling of loss.
· Offering you own remembrances of the person.
· Allowing class members to offer their own remembrances, if they choose to do so.
4. Remember that you are modeling an appropriate response and that students may look to you for guidance in how to respond. Reassure them that each person responds differently to grief and loss. There is no “right” way to grieve.
Remember that you don’t need to do anything – just be genuine and attentive and listen.
5. Encourage your students to engage in healthy behaviors to enhance their ability to cope with stress, including eating well, getting plenty of sleep, engaging in physical exercise and activities that are relaxing and avoiding alcohol and other drug use.
6. Try to return the class to a normal schedule as quickly as possible. It may seem strange for “life to go on” after such a tragedy, but establishing normalcy can be a great comfort to your students.
7. Be aware that the effect of the tragedy can remain (and possibly affect class and student functioning) for an extended period of time. Students more directly affected by the tragedy may need to ask for extra time to complete assignments or delay exams. When making accommodations in response to the tragedy, be certain to maintain the professional nature of the faculty/student relationship and the consistency of academic expectations.
8. Remind your students to use resources and supports available on campus. Encourage students to seek support from friends, family, faculty and other trusted individuals on campus. Refer any student you are concerned about to Counseling Services. The Counseling Services staff is also available to provide support and suggestions to faculty and professional staff on dealing with affected students and classes. To consult with one of our counselors, please call 717-291-4083.
9. Consider giving yourself and your class the opportunity to express your sadness and condolences to the family of the student. Consider:
· Sending a card from the class as a whole.
· Allowing students to write individual notes to the family which you gather and send.
· Sending any course work you have from the student to the family.
Please consult with your department chair about these responses to be certain they fall within the family’s wishes.
Adapted from the George Washington University Counseling Center with credit to the National Mental Health and Education Center, the National Association of School Psychologists, The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Counseling Services, the Center for Instructional Development and Research at the University of Washington, and the Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching at Western Kentucky University.