“Grief is a really hard thing to talk about with people,” said Milton West Elementary School Principal Marcia Schwengels. “A lot of people have different comfort levels.”

Milton School District staff in grades K-8 recently received training and the schools have been designated “Grief-Sensitive” by the New York Life Foundation.

“We worked with the New York Life Foundation, who provides the training to staff,” Schwengels said. “We had a staff Zoom meeting and learned about how to talk to families who were experiencing bereavement of any type.”

The training was about 90 minutes. Different modules were available to help teach staff more professional development on the subject, if needed.

After completing the training, the schools received a $500 grant. With the money, they now are able to purchase materials they think would help students.

“The grant is very broad. Whatever the school feels they need in order to help,” said Schwengels. “It could be family-specific, so if we had a family experiencing grief and they could not afford counseling, we could help with that.”

Schwengels said she is grateful the schools did the training this year because of concerns the pandemic would affect students, especially if they lost family members to COVID-19. Schwengels said no students at her school experienced such a loss. However, she said several students in the school have lost a parent in the past two years.

According to Schwengels, 1 in 15 children will lose a parent by the time they are 18 years old.

“Being one of those statistics myself, who lost a parent when I was 15, I know the importance of making sure that the grief process is met and not ignored or swept away,” Schwengels said. “Grief that is not been dealt with can fester into all kinds of bad habits into adulthood.”

Recommended for you