Student Voices: Grief Lingers After the Pandemic. Kids Need More Support

From The Seattle Times comes this first-person piece by Rahma Gaye on the nature of grief and the need to address the continuing impact of the pandemic on young people:

“After three grueling years, I felt excited to start my senior year last fall with the prospect of graduating on a high note then journeying past the familiarity of my high school walls. The process sounded simple: Work hard, don’t procrastinate, get good grades and stay out of trouble. Easy, right? After all, these are the platitudes students constantly hear. 

This past December, I was devastated by the sudden loss of a close family member, the person who helped raise me after my father’s passing when I was 2. The process that I naively thought was so straightforward became an improbable feat as my school performance dropped to an all-time low. 

Grief and loss are universally known experiences aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, our educational system has not fully recognized the pandemic’s sustained impacts on student mental health and have overlooked the thousands of children who have lost caregivers and parents. In a time where the lines between home and school life continue to blur, we must recognize the importance of integrating social and emotional support in K-12 schooling to ensure the well-being of all our students. . . . 

According to a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 140,000 children in the U.S. have lost a parent or a grandparent caregiver to COVID-19; Washington reported a rate of 49-159 caregiver losses per 100,000 children due to the pandemic. These losses are most prevalent in our most vulnerable communities: those with lower socioeconomic status and racial minorities.” 

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