Schools are key community institutions and are identified in the Compassionate City Charter UK as enablers to make compassionate communities stronger. Compassionate Ottawa is working with the school community to support conversations on the topic of dying, death, loss and grief. A first initiative was launched and is described below.
In partnership with the two French school boards Compassionate Ottawa is developing tools that will serve to initiate conversations with various groups within the school community. The goal is to increase awareness and bring everyone to a base level of understanding on the topics of dying, death, loss and grief. Knowing about the terms and what to do generally around situations involving these topics will make the entire school community feel empowered and confident to talk about this. This initiative entitled Dying, death, loss and grief: Building a shared language in the school community is made possible as a result of a grant received from the Ottawa Community Foundation.
Why are we doing this?
It is well described in the literature that the impact of loss or death on a student is important as it may lead to*:
- Impairment of academic performance;
- Reduction of the student’s attention span;
- Behaviour problems such as attention-seeking, acting-out, aggressive or withdrawn behaviour;
- Apathy, depression;
- Complaints of illness or pain to lack any physical cause
*Source: Loss, Grief and Growth, Education Project Incorporated
It is also reported in the literature search conducted for this current initiative that school personnel often acknowledge that they feel ill-prepared to address the unmet emotional needs of bereaved students.
Some other interesting findings from the literature search conducted are:
- A broad consensus exists among educators and among other school personnel that school communities need:
- to take a pro-active stance in order to more effectively support schoolchildren experiencing loss and separation as a result of a death of a family member, loved one or friend;
- to work with school personnel in developing the necessary skills and resources to better equip them in providing emotional and practical support
- Communication is perhaps the most common barrier to be overcome;
- Needs may be different when supporting students living with a life-limiting or life-threatening illness, and also with those with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Compassionate Ottawa and its partners, the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est and the Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario, along with other organizations and experts, are working on the development of presentation materials that will serve to disseminate basic information on the topics of dying, death, loss and grief to the school community. A working group is leading the work and aims for a phased in implementation that will begin in the spring/summer 2019. There is also huge potential that the work being developed serve other schools beyond Ottawa.
Everyone believes that this work has the potential for being transformative in terms of community development, not only in the catchment areas of the two French school boards, but in the wider community. Members of the school community who will go through the materials will have the potential of spreading the importance of compassionate communities to their own networks, be it workplaces, faith groups, ethnic groups, neighborhoods or other communities.
For More Information
If you would like to obtain more information on the initiative or would like to contribute please contact us at https://compassionateottawa.ca/contact-us/. Compassionate Ottawa is also inviting you to share any ideas you may have regarding other initiatives that could be considered with schools.
Please find below a series of Canadian and international website addresses on the topics of dying, death, loss and grief that could be of interest. These addresses are provided for information only and do not imply a recommendation by Compassionate Ottawa.
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Become a donor
If you would like to support the Compassionate Ottawa initiative please complete the OutCare Foundation form and select Compassionate Ottawa from the drop down menu under "Fund". Your donation will go towards supporting our initiatives for advance care planning, workplaces, schools, and faith communities, as described in our priorities page. We thank you in advance for considering to make a donation to Compassionate Ottawa.