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Grief and Loss...

Whenever I think about grief and loss I, like many others, think about the big losses. Mostly I think about the death of a loved one and the processes that we go through. I would venture to guess that most are familiar with the stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I would guess as well that most would know that these stages are not linear and don’t have a play book for how to move through. Our society has well established rituals and traditions that honor those who have passed as well as support loved ones that are left behind to grieve. Some of us have experienced the loss of a loved one in the past eight months. We have not been able to mourn our loved ones in the ways that we traditionally would have. We have not been able to gather, to cry together, to embrace each other, to accompany each other as we journey through the heart break of losing someone we love. Although we have not been able to complete the traditional grieving processes the need to accompany is so great that we found other ways to gather, to grieve and to embrace.


As we navigate through this pandemic I’ve been thinking about loss in the context of what we’ve lost as a result of COVID19 and the necessary restrictions that have had to be enacted. We are experiencing loss that is impacting us financially, emotionally, socially, physically and spiritually. Students were not able to participate in traditional rites of passage such as high school graduation in the ways they had before. Couples getting married had to either postpone or dramatically change their plans. Grandparents were not able to visit with and embrace their families. This is just a small example of the types of losses we have experienced. Because these losses don't typically impact all of society, we don’t have the rituals and traditions to mark and process these losses. This has made navigating big emotions around these losses even more complex. Some may feel that having major emotions is silly and they should just suck it up. Others see people dealing with situations that are more tragic and think they have no right to be down. We have to remember that emotions are not right or wrong they just are. For some the culmination of seemingly inconsequential loss will grow and pile up to a place that they begin to experience grief. It is important that we allow ourselves to feel these emotions because if we continue to push them down and try to ignore they can build to overwhelming feelings of anxiety, sadness, despair, helplessness and depression.


It is important that we recognize and acknowledge the loss to be able to deal with our feelings it in healthy ways. When we remember that a range of emotions is normal and individual we won’t be tempted to discount them. We have to live in the emotion and then move beyond. With the loss of a typical high school graduation students, teachers and families allowed themselves to be sad about the loss of a tradition. Once they processed through the emotion of the loss, they were then able to come up with creative and novel ways to mark and honor this milestone. This example can be generalized to other losses.


As we continue to navigate our way in the midst of this pandemic we have to understand that grieving loss is part of the human condition. We have not in our lifetime been subjected to the loss of connection, loss of a sense of safety or loss of freedom of movement that this pandemic has caused. Although there are days when it is very hard to believe, we have to remember that this is a temporary state. We will get to a place where COVID19 is a virus that is controlled in our world. Until we get there we have to lean on each other. We need to allow ourselves to feel big emotions and then we need to move through them.


Michelle MacKinnon,

Director Support Services

Holy Spirit Catholic School Division

Grief is Like a Snowflake - Julia Cook

After the death of his father, Little Tree begins to learn how to cope with his feelings and start the healing process. With the help and support of his family and friends, Little Tree learns to cope by discovering what is really important in life, and that his father’s memory will carry on. Best-selling author, Julia Cook, and a lovable cast of trees, offers a warm approach to the difficult subject of death and dying.


These resources are available to use through the Behaviour Support Team Lending Library.
If interested, these resources are also available for purchase at the following locations:


Amazon.ca - Grief is a Snowflake Story Book / Grief is Like a Snowflake Activity Book
or on Julia Cook's Website

During Covid19, even very young children are experiencing loss and grief. They are keen observers of people and environments, and they notice and react to stress in their parents and other caregivers. Their response to this stress will vary – from behavior, interruptions in sleeping and eating, to large emotions.

  • Be careful of your words and the media that they are exposed to around the pandemic
  • Young children thrive with structure – keep their routines – meals, bed time, playtime. Be sure to get outside to play.
  • Help young children talk about their feelings by giving them a label. Children have to learn to name their feelings. Talk about how others might be feelings. When reading with them, discuss how the characters in the story are feeling.
  • If there is the loss of a family member or friend, listen to and comfort your child. Talk about death using clear words. Again, help them talk about their feelings.

Great Books for Children!

Grief and COVID-19

Videos, Blogs & Links!

Mental Health of Alberta's Refugee Students & Families

Great resource from the Alberta Teachers' Association


Acknowledging the Sense of Loss and Grief Immigrant Students

and their Families May Experience


With an English Language Learner student population of close to nineteen percent, Holy Spirit School District is comprised of families who have come from around the world. While many of these newcomers have chosen to come to Canada for better opportunities for themselves and their families, it is important to acknowledge the sense of loss and grief they may be experiencing in leaving behind their family, friends, and homeland, especially with the added challenge of navigating COVID-19. For more information click here!


Great ATA professional development resource: Working with Immigrant Students and Families’

At 11am, join the rest of the country in observing two minute of silence to commemorate
the time at which the Armistice was signed in 1918.

Remembrance Day History....

The poppy is the recognized symbol of remembrance for war dead in Canada, the countries of the British Commonwealth, and the United States. The flower owes its significance to the poem In Flanders Fields, written by Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) John McCrae, a field surgeon in the Canadian artillery, in the midst of the Second Battle of Ypres, in Belgium, in May 1915.

The poppy references in the first and last stanzas of the most widely read and oft-quoted poem of the war contributed to the flower's status as an emblem of remembrance and a symbol of new growth amidst the devastation of war.


More information regarding Remembrance Day can be found online at the Canadian War Museum. The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national museum of military history and one of the world’s most respected museums.

“In Flanders Fields the Poppies Blow…”

In Flanders Fields - John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row, that mark our place; and in the sky the larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved, and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders Fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields.