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Back-to-School, COVID-19, and Grief

2020 has certainly been a whirlwind adventure. COVID-19 has affected us all and changed what our day-to-day looks like for everyone. From strictly staying home, wearing masks, social distancing from family and friends, and even online school, we’ve had to adjust to changes fast!

Back-to-school time also brings a mix of emotions for caregivers and especially students. Starting a new grade and possibly a new school, meeting a new teacher, and making new friends, all while grieving, can be challenging, yet exciting. Adding COVID-19 to that mix of emotions, poses questions that may be difficult to answer for some. Be assured that you are not alone in this, and you will get through it.

Typically, going back to school looks like buying school supplies, new clothes, preparing lunches, haircuts/hairdos, and more. For many, that process will be delayed or not happen at all with the new option of attending school online. This may cause some anxiety for caregivers and their child(ren). The reality is things will just be different. Here are some tips to get you started on this school year. All you need to do is BREATHE!

  • Be okay with not being okay. One of the many beauties of life is, we don’t always have to have it all together. If you’re having a bad day, or are struggling with a task, admit that to yourself. It’s okay to also admit that to your child. They should know that life comes with ups and downs. Being able to take the time to process through those is not only healthy, but it will benefit you in the end. Sometimes that means walking away from that task for a time period and coming back to it when your head is clear.
  • Realize that grief is now a part of you and them. While grief can be uncomfortable, it has no timeline or expiration date. It should happen naturally. It’s okay if while packing lunches, you burst into tears because you miss your loved one. It’s okay if while doing homework, your child remembers that their loved one was very good at math, and they aren’t sure if they can do it on their own. That’s a part of a grief journey. Embrace that and know that it becomes more manageable over time.
  • Ease into a new routine. COVID-19 has taken us all away from what is familiar. Having a routine in place creates habits for yourself and your children that provides comfort and stability. Develop a routine early in the school year if transitions are difficult for you and/or your child.
  • Always check in. Checking in with your child on how their day is going or any struggles they may be having shows them you care. Even if at times they don’t answer or don’t want to talk about it. Being abreast of how your child is feeling or what they may be struggling with can help if a big struggle arises, so that you won’t be caught off guard.
  • Talk openly with your child. Adults sometimes try their hardest to shield children from the unknown. It’s best to talk openly with your child about what this school year may look like, missing the person their grieving, and any feelings that you or they may have. Children thrive on communication, and it can be very helpful to know how their caregiver is handling things.
  • Help is a phone call away. I’m sure you’ve had family and friends mention that if you need anything, give them a call. It’s okay to ask for help. If your child is struggling with grieving at school, reach out to school personnel, as they are there to help.
  • Everyday will be different. Don’t expect two days to be the same. It’s just not possible. Monday may be a breeze, but Wednesday may be super tough. Give yourself and your child some grace, knowing that life happens, grief happens, and we just take it one day at a time.

Patience and understanding are key during this time. Allow yourself and your child(ren) time to grieve, even when life is still going on around us. Lean on each other and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be “the strong one.” Remember, all you need to do is breathe! In the end, you just may be surprised with how well you all get through it together.



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