Support for Grieving Students

Dear Families,

The faculty and staff of Newton South are committed to nurturing your child as a whole person. While much of your child’s growth and learning at South will take place inside of a classroom, there are some shared experiences within a school community that can have a profound impact on a young person’s life. The death of a classmate – a fellow community member – is one such occasion.

It has been one month since Nicholas Whitman’s death, and ten months have gone by since Klassique Foster died. Many students and staff continue to grieve the loss of these two vital community members. Others who did not know Nick or Klassique personally may be experiencing complex emotions/related to other losses in their lives. We have dedicated significant resources to supporting our students and staff and helping them to understand and work through their grief responses.

Grief comes in many forms and goes through stages and you may observe any number of behaviors by your child, including but not limited to:

  • withdrawing/not wanting to talk
  • inability to concentrate/restlessness
  • mood swings or unpredictable, intense emotional reactions to mundane things
  • sleep disturbances (not enough or too much)
  • lack of appetite or eating too much
  • potential increase in risk-taking behaviors
  • wanting to spend even more time with friends for security and bonding

Please know, all these responses, and more, are normal and are part of the healing process.

The Dougy Center (National Center for Grieving Children & Families) provides resources with suggestions for families to support children at home, including:

  • Reinforce assurances of safety and security, even if teens don’t express concerns.
  • Maintain routines and set clear expectations, but be flexible and provide choices when needed.
  • Allow for expression of feelings without trying to change or take them away.
  • Answer questions honestly.
  • Adjust expectations for concentration and task completion when necessary.
  • Ask open-ended questions (“What is it like for you?”) and listen without judging, interpreting, advising, or placating.
  • Assist teens to connect with support systems, including other adults (family, family friends, counselors, teachers, coaches).
  • Have patience with teens’ wide range of reactions and questions.
  • Seek professional help for any concerns around depression, self-harm or suicidal thoughts.

We are providing students and staff with opportunities to process their grief and celebrate the lives and memories of Klassique and Nick here in school1. Efforts include:

  • Planning an event in memory of Klassique Foster (2nd Annual “Pink Party”)
  • Planning an event/memorial in memory of Nicholas Whitman
  • Grief Circles: Students will be able to participate in any/all circles, as they will be held at different times.
    • Remembering Klassique 
    • Remembering Nick
    • Living with Loss (Circle for those struggling with grief in general)

Please use this google form to let us know if your child would like to participate in any of these events. As always, please feel free to reach out to your child’s school counselor or dean with any concerns you have.

Best wishes for a peaceful holiday season,

Dan Rubin

Director of Guidance & Counseling

Research has shown that “Active Memorials” (such as a fundraiser, or Klassique’s Pink Party) are more celebratory and less *triggering* for our community members.  If you’d like to read some of the research that has shaped our policies and decision making, please see the attached from The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children and the National Association of School Psychologists.

Trauma and Loss in Children