Grieving, Purpose, and Creativity

  • Child Development
Nelyda Miguel, Associate Head of School
Student made cards for assisted living residents.

Has it been 6 weeks or 7? We are losing count. There is a feeling of being suspended in time. There is fatigue. There is grieving for the world we lost. But there is also rebirth in nature as spring displays its magnificence and the air is crisp and ever so clean. Are there more birds singing or is it the lack of human noise that makes it seem that way? How do we grieve for what we have lost and what can we celebrate? For each of us, there is a different answer. 

David Kessler and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote about 5 stages of grieving: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As the pandemic continues to impact the world, we feel many of these, not necessarily in neat succession. Denial and adrenaline got us through the first couple of weeks, but since we have felt sadness, loss, and anger. This grief is overshadowed by enormous uncertainty, because the pandemic is far from over. The COVID-19 curve has flattened but refuses to decline as we hoped to see by now. We look at other countries, who started this unfortunate journey earlier, to predict the future. It is not a clear or uplifting picture. We wonder:

  • How will we return to normal?
  • What will normal look like in the near future?
  • Will normal ever be the same as before the pandemic?

Sebastian Junger said that humans can thrive in hardship, so long as they feel necessary. The Red Oaks School has reached out to our community to replace our face-to-face relationships with virtual alternatives. We have parent-to-parent groups, and we have groups with our school psychologist. Our PA has launched volunteer initiatives and our students are enthusiastically making greeting cards for elders in retirement homes, and videotaping themselves reading picture books for younger students.  We are simultaneously grieving together, finding purpose, and strengthening our bonds as a community.  

Our students have impressed us with their creativity. We replaced our loved potlucks with a virtual potluck of positivity. Students and advisors shared what we love. There were many dogs (who appear deliriously happy these days), performances in piano and sax, poems, and stuffed toys. Some have revived hobbies that they had been too busy for, such as coin collections and painted figurines. A chinchilla named “Big Eyes” in Portuguese made an appearance, and a coin and stamp collection was described in Hungarian and Marathi.

Teachers have adapted the curriculum to meet the needs of our students and take advantage of the opportunities present in our current situation.  For an interdisciplinary unit of PE/health and Design, student teams are creating workouts with household items. They will share them in Flipgrid. Students and teachers will try each workout and give feedback based on the Design Cycle. Since our science curriculum was based on labs, we are starting a unit combining art, science, health, and language arts. Students will investigate a plant in their yard or neighborhood, dissect flowers, and learn botanical drawing. We will use the meditative quality of deep observation to write about external and internal worlds. We hope to create a body of work that will be memorable for our children.

We all continue to learn to be resilient, to be an example for our children, and to find meaning in an incomprehensible reality.

  • Coronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • creativity
  • grief
  • purpose