What do you say to someone who’s grieving?

This may seem like an odd post for my education blog, and I was going to post it on my personal blog, but then I decided that actually it does belong here. This isn’t taught in schools…but it should be!

As many of you know, I lost my mom recently. “I just don’t know what to say,” one of my friends told me, giving me a hug. Well you know what? It’s ok to admit that you don’t have the words – I’m living through it and I don’t really have the words either – but by saying that you don’t know what to say, you are telling me that you know I’m hurting and that you wish you could do something about it. In other words, you are saying that you care.

There are no magic words to make everything ok, but there are some which will bring some comfort, and others which, however well-meaning they were intended to be, will make the person feel worse. So if you want to know what to say, or what not to say, next time you are in this situation – read on.

What to say

  • I’m sorry for your loss
    If you don’t know the person who died, then a simple acknowledgment is fine.
  • I’ll always remember the time when…
    One friend from Malaysia told me she’d always remember my mom making her a blancmange because she’d never tried one. It’s really meant a lot to me when people have shared their own memories of my mom and it’s comforting to know that she will live on in the memories of other people whose lives she has touched.
  • What are you doing on Monday evening? You put the kettle on and I’ll bring the cake.
    I’ve lost my mom, my best friend, and I’m feeling lonely. I’m not feeling up to picking the phone up myself, so you taking the initiative to arrange coming round to keep me company is really appreciated.
  • I’ve brought a casserole round. Where do you keep your plates?
    I know I need to eat, but it’s not something I’ve been able to think about so someone just putting food in front of me has been a huge help.
  • Nothing
    One of my friends called me, and we spent about 15 minutes just crying down the phone to each other before hanging up. It doesn’t matter that we didn’t speak. I know that she cared enough to call, and she cared enough to cry for me. Some people have just given me a hug, or squeezed my shoulder before carrying on their way, and I know. I know that even though they don’t have the words, they are telling me that they care.

What not to say

  • Oh well never mind. You’ll feel better soon.
    Yes, I’ve really had this one. Funnily enough I do mind, and I hope I do feel better soon, because right now I’m feeling worse.
  • You’ll never get over it, you know. You’ll always miss her and you’ll never be able to remember the happy times because it will always be too painful.
    Yes, I’ve really had this one as well. It made me cry. A lot.
  • I know how you feel
    No. You don’t know. You have no idea how I feel. My relationship with my mom was special and unique, and nobody else in the world has ever felt this way before. Maybe you’ve lost your own mom, but your relationship with her was unique and special and nobody else will ever know you felt. My brother and I have lost the same mom, but that doesn’t mean that we miss her in the same way.
  • I lost my mom/dad/gran/hamster last year
    I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m struggling to cope with my own grief at the moment, so if I don’t know you well enough to know already that you have lost someone then I’m going to struggle to scrape together the strength to support you through yours.
  • What did she die of?
    Why are you asking me this? It doesn’t matter why she died. It just matters that she did and I wish she hadn’t.
  • You know where I am. Phone me if you need me
    That’s kind of you, and I know you mean well, but at the moment I’m incapable of thinking about what I need and even if I could I don’t have the energy to pick up the phone.  Much better just to give me a date and time to expect you round.
  • My parents are really old. I’ll probably lose them in the next few years.
    So, let me get this straight. I tell you that I’m upset because my mom has died and you respond by telling me that you still have yours. Well, then stop this conversation now. If you think you will lose them soon, go and spend time with your family and make sure they know you love them. If you have nothing comforting to say to me, then leave me in peace.
  • Nothing
    Bereavement isn’t catching. Just because I’ve lost someone I love doesn’t mean that you will if you stop to speak to me. I’m feeling really lonely and isolated right now, so please don’t break eye-contact and walk away, pretending you haven’t seen me. Take a deep breath, choose something – anything – from the first list and let me know that you care.

7th March 2015 update
A few days ago my husband showed me a link to a post written not long after mine, on a similar theme. If you found this post useful, you may also like to read this Huffington Post article on helping someone who is grieving.

A Day in the Life of a Self-employed Teacher

Recently I signed up to a blogging challenge and one of the suggestions was to write a blog post about a typical day. That sounds all well and good…..except that I don’t have a typical working day!

Often I have work booked in in advance, which is great.  On those days I get ready for work and I go. Other days I wait to see if the phone rings. Most days it does and off I go to work. Other days it doesn’t and then I work from home.

But, whether the phone rings at the last minute, or the day is booked in advance, the work I do when I get there is the same though – right? Er…no! I teach across a whole range of ages, and teach every subject on the primary curriculum as well as specialising in languages.  One day I could be playing dolls houses and making chocolate crispie cakes in Nursery; the next teaching French to graduates at a local university. The day after that could be a 1960s themed day with Year 6, followed by a day split between Years 1 and 2 doing some Latin. The week could end with a day teaching deaf children.

On those days when I work from home the days are still varied. I maintain my own website and this blog, and also have responsibility for my husband’s website and blog for his tour guiding business. There are always emails that need answering and I sometimes proofread my husband’s translation work for him. I’m part of Team 100WC so I make sure I find time to read the children’s writing and leave comments for them.

I also take my CPD seriously, so a work from home day will include doing my homework for my British Sign Language level 3 course and reading and research for a level 3 course in Dyslexia Awareness, Support and Screening.

Four evenings a week and Saturday mornings I do private tuition for children aged 6-12, but again every lesson is different. Some of the children I work with need help with just maths, some just English and some both. Some have dyslexia and need a different sort of help, and some find the work they do at school easy and need stretching. As if that wasn’t enough variety, I am planning to branch out into 11+ tuition, and language teaching for businesses as well.

So – thanks very much to Nikki Pilkington for the suggestion in her 30 Day Blogging Challenge, but I’m afraid this is about as typical as it gets!

REsources – Part 2 (Christmas resources)

selection of children's books about ChristmasChristmas is another tricky time of year – most children know the nativity story by the time they start school but I found some fantastic books, suitable for KS1, which tell the story with a twist. The Grumpy Shepherd tells the story of Christmas from the point of view of Joram, a shepherd who is always moaning about something – sheep are boring and his job is too hard – until an angel appears with news of a very special baby.  Jesus’ Christmas Party tells the story from the point of view of an inn-keeper who gets very cross when his sleep is disturbed first by a man and his pregnant wife wanting someone to stay, and then by a bright star shining through his window. He gets crosser and crosser as he is woken by shepherds and kings looking for a baby, but then he meets the baby for himself. Finally A Christmas Story tells the story of a young girl and a baby donkey who follow Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, meeting angels and shepherds and kings along the way.

For older children, I have found this Advent wreath game a great resource. I have used it in the last week of the Autumn term, when the children don’t want to do any work because it’s nearly Christmas, and by the end of the game the children are able to explain clearly what an advent wreath is for, how it is used and what each part represents. Although it’s quite a simple game, Years 5 and 6 really got into it, and enjoyed it so much they asked if I would leave it in their classroom so that they could play it again later.

To book a private tutor in Great Barr or the surrounding areas, visit my website www.sjbteaching.com.

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Related post: REsources – Part 1 (General Resources)

REsources – Part 1 (General resources)

Last year I taught a lot of RE. It’s not my specialist subject (I’m an MFLer), it just worked out that way. When I was looking at the schemes of work for various year groups, I noticed that some stories seem to come up year after year. So how do you hold a child’s interest when you know that they’ve done this every year for the last three years? Equally to the point – when you’re teaching the same lesson in several different schools, how do you stop yourself getting bored so that you can present this to the children as something fresh and exciting? Ideally, you do something else, but as we all know – sometimes it’s a case of “It’s in the Scheme of Work therefore it MUST be done!” And if you’re self-employed it’s best not to argue with that.

One story in particular from last year was the Good Samaritan. I can remember hearing this story as a child – in school, in Sunday school, in church…. The teachers would choose some children to come and act the story out and the first time it was fun. The second time was OK. The third time it was boring and by the fourth time I just didn’t bother listening any more. With this in mind I knew I had to find something a bit different to cover the story. That’s where youTube came to my rescue. I know that in some schools YouTube is banned, but fortunately I’ve been working in schools that are forward-thinking enough to allow it. I found this lovely Lego story which the children really enjoyed – especially when all the lego men starting singing Kung Fu Fighting!

Another YouTube RE resource that I have to share is David and Goliath. I haven’t had the opportunity to use it, but I wish I had because it really made me laugh when I came across it. It’s the story of David and Goliath sung to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Related post: REsources – Part 2 (Christmas resources).

Look out for more Christmas specific posts in December. Why not follow this blog by email  or RSS to receive notification as soon as something new is added – you’ll find links for both on the right-hand  side of this page.