Pauline Kids has recently released a beautiful book by Kimberly Schuler called I Will Remember You: My Catholic Guide Through Grief. It is first and foremost a workbook, companion, and keepsake for a child dealing with the loss of a loved one. But this book can be useful in other ways, particularly in a classroom setting. A classroom is a community that grows together and supports each other, especially during difficult times.
I taught in a 4th grade class during the San Diego wildfires in 2007. Everyone (including myself) was evacuated from the area and had to spend several days away from our homes, wondering what kind of devastation our neighborhoods would endure. It would have been impossible to ignore what was on everyone’s minds. So when school finally resumed we sat down as a class and talked. We shared stories. We shared fears. We shared prayers of thanksgiving for the safety of our families and friends. And I encouraged the kids to write about their experiences too. Even though talking about the wildfires in the immediate aftermath was difficult, I recognized that it was necessary, and having that conversation reinforced that our classroom is a supportive community.
I Will Remember You can give you some tools to teach your students about grief and can help you start the difficult, but necessary, classroom dialogue if someone your students know passes away. Below are some ideas for using our book in a classroom setting.
- The memory box activity on p. 16 can be done collectively. As a class, brainstorm favorite memories of the deceased. Allow class time to draw pictures, write stories, and collect objects that serve as reminders of that person’s presence in the students’ lives. Instead of making a class card, the teacher can cover a box in white paper and each student can sign their name and draw a small picture. All of the pictures, stories, and objects can go inside the box and be given as a gift to a grieving friend.
- Pray together for the deceased.
- Have a conversation about what to say to a grieving classmate using pp. 22–25. Encourage your students to show sympathy in whatever way they can, even if they don’t know the right words to use.
- If it is likely that students will attend the funeral, it would be very helpful to go over what happens during each part using pp. 30–37. This will help students mentally prepare for what they are about to experience and understand what is going on around them.
- Talk with your class about the grieving process using pp. 42–47. Help them understand that everyone grieves in different ways, and that’s ok. Brainstorm ways to be a good friend to someone who is grieving.
- The Acts of Kindness activity on pp. 62–63 can be done as a class project throughout the year, whether or not someone has died. This activity can foster caring and kindness in the classroom community and gives students a taste of charity work on a very small scale. Some slight modifications may be to have one student per day draw from the jar, or to brainstorm on the board and have each student secretly choose three to try on his or her own throughout the week.
- The word search activity on pp. 76–77 can be done with a class. Each child makes their own puzzle full of words that make them happy and then the word searches are collected and redistributed so that someone else can complete the puzzle or even redistributed at a later date so they can complete their own puzzles.
To print this book guide click here