Experts on the Field Discuss Grief Insights During Panel

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Dominick Nigro, a board member of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, recounted his experience with the death at a school in which he was a teacher, which was witnessed by many other students in the school – his first experience with what he termed “institutional bereavement.” One of the first things that was done was to develop a plan

 

“Every experience I ever had with bereavement kicked in when September 11th occurred,” Nigro said, as he was dealing with a school which had 250 families impacted by the attack on the twin towers.

 

A support plan for the bereaved children was put in place that involved safely delivering the children to a loved one. Direction was provided to teachers on how to handle the situation. Social service agencies were also engaged to open counseling centers at schools, even on weekends – “an approach that would deal with children, families and staff.”

 

In a deeply moving presentation, Dr. Anthony Salvatore, who was assistant principal at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, was emotionally distraught as he recalled how the tragedy in Newtown was dealt with, and recounted first meeting Dr. Schonfeld in the aftermath of the crisis.

 

Years earlier, Salvatore had supported a counselor to be  trained in trauma counseling when the district had no one trained in trauma and to provide voluntary training to administrators and staff. This proved invaluable in 2012 when tragedy struck. Experience led him to use of the term “can you help me understand” as a means of encouraging children to be more responsive when they were suffering grief.

 

Dr. Salvatore spoke to the importance of knowing something about the lives of the children and families you serve and, if possible, building a network of relationships with the social service entities in the community.

 

“It’s those little things that make a world of difference,” he said, to those dealing with grieving students or communities.

 

Dr. Schonfeld concluded the panel saying that having a crisis plan and staff training is crucial: “If you support your staff, they will do a better job of supporting others.”