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School Crisis Response

In the Wake of a School-Based Tragedy, the Bereavement Center of Westchester/The Tree House is Your Trusted Resource

Schools provide structure, safety and community for most of the nation’s children, bridging the divides of class and structure.When a school experiences the death of a student, a faculty, staff member or a cherished parent, their world can be turned upside down.

The Bereavement Center of Westchester/The Tree House is there to step in.

We are, in our own way, First Responders, minus the helmets and uniforms.  We go into trauma and loss situations to help foster psychological healing and resilience.

Our education around grief and loss is based on 20 plus years of experience going into schools after tragedies of all kinds. We counsel an approach of structured flexibility, allowing schools to maintain important rituals and expectations while allowing for “escape valves” for those in need. These can be as simple as a room with caring professionals and paper, markers and music, and as complex as significant clinical assessments and interventions with community members at risk.

Helping the Helpers

Even the most experienced administrator or clinician needs guidance, direction and support when they are among grievers.

Our work almost always starts with a phone call, a cry for help. We listen, ask questions and listen some more. Often by telling us the story, next steps become clearer.

At this point, schools often ask us to come in and guide them through the first critical days after the death. We make it clear that our focus is always on “helping the helpers”, providing a forum for support and teaching to the trusted school professionals so they, in turn, can support their students and colleagues.  While we are the experts in grief, they are the experts on their school and its student body.

Rest assured, we can walk beside you, methodically, as you work to comfort your hurting community.

BCW/The Tree House is there to help take the first steps after a tragedy, including:

  • Aid in the crafting of communications that inform their constituent groups of the death and of events to follow, available resources and words of comfort.
  • Identify potentially affected students beyond the obvious mourners. We help staff to understand when a referral might be needed for clinical work and identify a range of normal responses to a death. Our offices can provide clinical services as needed, or phone calls to touch base and ask necessary questions.
  • Provide a forum for support and teaching to the trusted school professionals so they can support their students and colleagues. These caring personnel need to express a broad range of feelings in a safe and confidential environment, which we can provide.
  • Help the administration and clinical staff conduct parent meetings. Parents may be talking about death for the very first time with a kindergartener or be unsure how to confront the issue of suicide with a teen. Again, these meetings are a hybrid of education, support and guidance.

Once we have been in a school in tragedy’s wake we remain available as a trusted resource, from the immediately affected to the broader community of mourners. BCW/The Tree House has always seen school outreach as a critical piece of the work that we do, one that is unique in the communities that we serve.

Do you need immediate help in the wake of a school tragedy?

Thank you, Lisa, for coming to Stuy that first day, for not taking over, but fully supporting what our needs were. Thank you for sensing that we could use your words at a parent meeting the following day and offering before being asked and making it happen so quickly.

— Casey J. Pedrick, Assistant Principal, Pupil Personnel Services, Stuyvesant High School

Read about a school crisis response after a terrorist attack here

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EMOTIONS SHARED HERE