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Band Director

Death of a Student

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Needless to say experiencing the death of a student is a difficult, gut-wrenching ordeal. I served as a pallbearer for a 7th grade girl who died from leukemia (12 years later my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, but survived), lost a student to an unknown heart defect, lost a student in a car crash, and most recently lost a former student serving in Iraq. All have been difficult. Below are the two biggest things I have learned from these experiences.

Students often do not know how to grieve. For many students this may be the first time experiencing the death of a peer. They don’t know if they should be crying or if they should feel bad that they are not crying. The first I would suggest to do is to explain to them that we all feel bad, and that we all are grieving and that no two people go through the grieving process the same way. Explain to them that it’s OK to grieve differently.

The second thing to do is try to get back to a normal routine as soon as possible. Following the death of a high school student who was a car crash (she died on a Sunday and I had to face the students 1st period on Monday) I explained how we grieve differently, I cried with the students, and I said that one of the best things we could do for our emotional health was to return to our normal routine (high school band). That doing this wasn’t disrespectful, but was a necessary step that needed to taken. Procrastinating going back to a routine was actually hurtful and that Lindsay (the girl who died) wouldn’t want that for us. Rehearsing music gave us an emotional outlet that the students and I need that morning. Later that day the school counselor said, “When I heard the band playing, I knew we would be OK.”

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