(You can now listen to this SEL moment in either English or Spanish. You can also still read it below.)
Good Morning Families, today is Monday March 30th 2020 and it is now time for a moment of SEL.
When I was 5 I lost my blanket. Actually, my father left it in a hotel in Tennessee. I was very, very sad. When I was 14 I lost my grandmother. I was sad, but to my memory, it was a different kind of sad from when I lost my blanket.
When I was 17 I lost all the privilege of using the family car and of being left at home alone. Can’t say too much about that other than choices have consequences. I felt angry. But also darkly proud as if I’d joined an elite club of fictional 1980’s hero/nerds.
My freshman year of college I lost the extra weight I’d been carrying through high school and I felt joy. Don’t worry, I found that weight again in Texas. #Lonestar.
All of these things represent different kinds of loss. Loss can be experienced over surface level things. Things we have little attachment too. As in, I lost a new sock, again.
Loss can also be profound. Loss of a significant item, or, a highly desired experience, or a loved one.
The greater attachment we have to the thing, be it real or hoped for, the greater degree of loss we may experience.
I think about all of us right now. The health care gains we will make during this time of social distancing may be hard to recognize. One great challenge prevention has always faced is that success from preventative actions is measured by the absence of a thing. Me, you, we, may all feel as though we are sacrificing a lot for something invisible. Without the good reminders of how this sacrifice is helping we may have the tendency to focus more on what can be measured more easily, and that is loss. Loss is the something leaving, something gone.
I think about students. I think about the things they’ve lost. Yes, they’ve lost instruction, and for some they are devastated and for others perhaps are less so.
But what I really think about is the loss of experience. I feel very sad for students. For the pre-schoolers and kindergartners who were learning to make friends and have lost time playing with people they were just getting to know.
I feel for the 5th graders who are losing the experience of going to Islandwood to dive deep into science and nature and camp for 3 nights away from their families, many for the first time.
I’m sad for the 8th graders who may transition to high school without the recognition of the rite of passage from middle school.
I’m there with the seniors who may forgo prom and commencement, in the sacrifice for the health and well-being of us all.
For the young musicians who may not get a chance to perform their works. The young actors whose plays will go unseen this year.
The athletes whose chance to compete either against others or against themselves has been prevented.
The relationships that teachers have formed with and for students and families, and the families who are suffering the pain only families know, when a young loved one, is grieving; the empathetic hurt we feel alongside our students when they hurt.
I feel for the adults who have had to make these tough decisions and who have had to be bearers of the bad news.
Our hearts go out, as hopefully our dollars do also, to those whose livelihoods are either on hold or gone at this moment. For the loss of security, for the loss of predictability, for the loss of routine and what now seems like the privilege of day-in-day-out work boredom.
I’m not trying to be a downer. I promise. In fact, I bring this all up only so we can spend some time this week considering loss. Considering what our kids and our friends and our families and our communities and ourselves are currently experiencing.
So when you reflect on loss, how do you feel? What thoughts accompany loss? How do you feel in your body? How do you want to express yourself? How can you express yourself?
We certainly don’t want to ruminate on all the worst things around us. That’s not the point. I want us to be able to reflect on loss. However, we do want to be able to give ourselves the permission to feel. A little time, each day to build our feeling muscles. We want to strengthen our backs and shoulders and hearts for what may come.
As we move forward through this time we will likely see and experience loss on many levels. It is for this reason that I’d like us to spend a little time practicing strategies for how we will handle this.
For today, try to give yourself just 5 minutes thinking about loss. Recognize the emotions that come up. See if you can recognize a familiar or automatic response. What is it for you? Sometimes for me it is engagement with those feelings? Other times it’s avoidance. Sometimes it’s the fear of being overwhelmed. Sometimes it is being overwhelmed.
Consider, what support mechanisms can you identify that help you shoulder those thoughts and feelings? Once you’ve done this take a moment for some calming breaths. Breath in through your nose. As you inhale say the word “Strong”. Hold the breath for just a second and then slower than the inhale, exhale and say the word “Healthy”. Allow all other thoughts and feelings to be dismissed as you breath. Repeat as necessary, if you find it’s helping you after you give sometime reflecting on loss.
I encourage you to talk to you kids and students and friends and loved ones about loss. Not to fear monger or worry or to bring unease, but rather to build the skills so that if you should need them, you have them. That’s what SEL does. It prepares us to be able to recognize and label and manage our thoughts and feelings.
I wish you the very best and look forward to connecting in whatever way we can, tomorrow.
May your thoughts and feelings be with you,