In this issue:
Returning to Basics
Over the past couple weeks, our school community has had to come to terms with the loss of one of our much-loved students, Alyssa. Although it has been remarkable to see students, teachers and families coming together to support one another through this time, it is inevitable that grief and all that comes with losing a loved one can be incredibly difficult to bear. Often we can be left feeling very disoriented; as our sense of normality or ‘stability’ is shaken, we must now not only process what has happened, but also adapt to what may be a significant amount of sudden change.
From a Pastoral Care perspective, we would like to use this opportunity to gently remind our students and families of the power of some simple healthy practices that can help us stay ‘buoyant’ and resilient when we’re in the aftermath of loss or another significant event that may result in feelings of grief.
Below are a few practical tips and resources that we have put together for you.
Our Top Tips
1. Prioritise routine
Following loss or a significant event, we may feel we have lost our sense of control. Cultivating predictability in our routine as an individual or as a family (i.e. keeping the same ‘weekly rhythm’ and avoiding spontaneous outings or events) can be reassuring as we work through grief. Additionally, consistent routine can support regular sleep patterns. Well-rested people can often better regulate their mood and are less likely to make impulsive, unhealthy decisions. Although falling asleep when there’s a lot on our mind can be easier said than done, if we focus on keeping a consistent daily and weekly rhythm – especially keeping the same bedtime and wake-time seven days a week – eventually our body-clock should follow suit. Things such as keeping your home environment decluttered and orderly (as much as possible), dimming lights at night, journaling to offload thoughts, playing peaceful or uplifting music, using an essential oil diffuser or drinking tea that promotes relaxation can also help with sleep patterns. Sleep is critical in keeping our minds healthy and functioning, which is particularly important as one processes grief and/or a lot of change.
2. Do your best to exercise and eat well
Exercise and nutrition will forever be two of the most fundamental aspects of a healthy mind and body. Both of these lifestyle factors are important because they are highly influential on the balance of chemicals in our brain. Our brains consist of a concoction of chemicals such as dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, cortisol, adrenaline plus more! Each of these chemicals help tell our body how to respond to what is happening in our lives and are released under different circumstances. When experiencing grief, often we can feel unmotivated, sluggish and understandably, have a very low mood. Incorporating bouts of exercise where possible can release endorphins (the ‘feel good’ hormone) and effectively, help to regulate our mood so we can better process what has happened in our lives. Likewise, reducing our intake of foods that will create a spike in our blood sugar levels (i.e. sweets, caffeinated foods or drink and pretty much any highly processed foods) will also help us regulate our mood, while eating more fresh foods high in nutrients and vitamins (i.e. lots of fruits and veggies that are vibrantly-coloured) will help our bodies and minds function at their best.
3. Show compassion towards yourself and give yourself space when needed
It’s important that during this time that we are not putting extra, unnecessary pressure on ourselves at school or work. Busyness is great at distracting us from the heavy emotions that may be underneath the surface, but in the long run, it is likely to prolong or delay the grieving process. Finding ways to take the pressure off (as much as possible) regarding commitments and stressful responsibilities can make a world of difference and communicating what you feel you need to those supporting you is key. It is not easy, but it is important that we reserve our emotional energy and give ourselves the time and space to process and acknowledge what has happened before eventually moving towards finding closure, rather than spending it on other things that can probably wait.
4. Allowing those around you to support you
When we are stressed or fearful, our body’s natural survival response is to ‘fight, flight or freeze’. Everyone reacts differently. We may feel angry, frustrated, irritable, confused and anxious and/or we may feel the need to completely withdraw or shutdown to those around us. These are all normal responses, but eventually, it’s important that we allow ourselves to be supported and cared for by those around us. Community is a precious gift that can be a source of great comfort when going through difficult seasons of our lives. Spending time with close family and friends and doing fun activities that will boost our mood can help us stay resilient and get us through.
5. Our ultimate hope and refuge
Lastly, we wanted to remind you of the hope and refuge we can find in Jesus. The book of Lamentations is about just that – lamenting (grieving). It says in Lamentations 3:21-26,
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”
When we are going through difficult seasons, we can have confidence in the faithfulness of our God and His love that He lavishes upon us (1 John 3) so we will not be consumed by what happens in our lives. Our hope is ultimately found in Jesus and the price He paid for us to have eternal life! This is the Good News that we can hold firmly to during any season. We hope this encourages you today.
Some quick resources
We wanted to end by clarifying that the practical habits we have spoken about will not ‘cure’ grief, but they may significantly help our ability to cope more healthily. To further help you, we have also compiled a stack of resources in our Student Wellbeing page in the Care Hub. This page also features a range of links to organisations that exist to help and support, such as Youth Beyond Blue, Kids Helpline and Lifeline.
Of course, seeking support from a counsellor and psychologist can be incredibly helpful as you work through grief, so if you can’t find what you’re looking for on the Care Hub, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will support you in whatever way we can. Grief is not simple and everyone will have different preferences and needs; identifying what you need during these times and then doing what you can to have these needs met is so important.
Louise and Ruby
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