Cancer, Kids, and Curriculum

When a young person dies it is difficult to process their loss. You believe they should outlast you, way beyond your experience with them, plus 5 years (give or take). Unfortunately, adolescents leave this plane and the adults around them need to support other young people in their grief. We are putting together a crisis team for the first days of school. 

Last year I experienced the transition of two students, both about 21. Now there is K.L., 16 years old, former cancer survivor, and now a loss to our school community. 

This is always more important to deal with than the curriculum. Our students lives come before anything else because they are our purpose. This is at least my feeling. Ultimately, I teach survival through the advancement of each students reading and writing skills. Often times there are too many external influences we all experience during the day that get in the way of academic learning. But so what. Everything is a learning experience and the highest challenge is helping others heal from loss and subsequent fear and confusion. 

We are not simply stuck in a cycle of birth, aging, sickness, and death. We are experiencers of these processes with ourselves and others. Denying these things will happen at any moment is to live with an attitude of avoidance; and how can you truly live if you willfully ignore the realities of human life. One example is that you will always be able-bodied with the capacity to navigate the world. What happens to you when ableism is now a reality that negatively impacts how you view and move in the world?

And this is what I have to consider: how do I best support the reality of loss and grief in the lives of teenagers? It’s not new for them, but it is like looking in a mirror. Mortality is shoved in your face and you only live once takes on meaning again. I have to make their heroes journey one to thrive in and contend with, despite the set backs and difficulties. 

This is an opportunity to make life valuable to them. To help them find a purpose and strength in loss that can be transformed into energies that build love and comfort. 

RIP K.L.

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