Death of a Teacher’s Husband: My Lesson Plan for Survival

About Amy Arnold

Amy Arnold is a mother, a teacher, a writer, an administrator, a parent coach, and exhausted!!! She has worked with students with special needs since 1994, and specialized in autism and related disorders for the last 15 years, including parent coaching, sibling workshops, and sensory training. When not focused on education, she enjoys playing guitar and writing fiction. She can be contacted at amyarnold08@gmail.com.

My husband of ten years just passed away. School starts in three weeks. My husband has always been right there with me in the trenches, whether I was teaching or acting as administration. He encouraged me, he was proud of me, and he kept me sane; now he is gone. While death isn’t the only kind of major life change we can incur, it is certainly one that changes a person’s entire life. I have had friends who have gone through a divorce, lost a child, had a miscarriage, or lost their home during the school year. There is no end to the kind of crises that life can throw at us. Certainly life “happens” to everyone, but as teachers, we have these societal expectations on us that are often unrealistic and martyr-like. It seems that we are supposed to suck it up and move along with our classes, our lesson plans, and our lives. Nevertheless, it’s true. We do have to pick up and move on with our lives.

How am I supposed to survive? I need a lesson plan for myself. Click To Tweet

Teachers are required to teach emotional intelligence by modeling their own emotional regulation. Daniel Goleman described emotional intelligence as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote about grief after death and is considered the expert in this field. So I am going to make some suggestions, based on the understanding of Goleman’s work and Kubler-Ross’ research on bereavement, which I hope I will remember to enact for myself as I attempt to go on with my life during this school year.

Understanding the premise of Goleman’s emotional intelligence is important.

Goleman said that people who are the most successful in life are not those with the highest IQs, but those with the highest Emotional Quotients, or EQs. He described emotional intelligence as being divided into four core skills that fit into two categories: personal and social competence. Personal competence includes self-awareness and self-management. We must be aware of our own emotions in an ongoing fashion and be willing to adjust our behavior to adapt to changing emotional statuses. In addition to management of our own behavior, we must manage our relationships with others. Social awareness allows us to correctly identify emotions in others and use that information to build and maintain relationships with others. Since emotions are often short-lived, we must be constantly aware of shifts in the emotional climate, especially when we are working closely with others in situations such as co-teaching, team teaching, and working with paraprofessionals.

People who are the most successful in life are not those with the highest IQs, but those with the… Click To Tweet

Understanding the Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief is equally important.

In order to be self-aware, we must be prepared to understand more about the stages of grief, as described by Kubler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying. We all go through these stages for different lengths of time, in our own way, and we must be prepared for shifts in our emotions related to these stages. The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The nature of our loss, whatever that loss may be, as well as our own EQ will be determining factors in how effective we will be, not only in our classroom or office but working with our teams and students. Self-awareness will affect our perceived sense of success or failure. Click To Tweet

Enlist a posse of people to help you through the journey.

It is my personal belief that we need at least three kinds of people to survive a crisis: a compassionate/empathic friend, a logical listener, and an accountability partner. You need someone to know the story, who will listen anytime you need a shoulder. If you don’t have to preface the conversation every time with the backstory, you can process your meltdown or moment more quickly, without rehashing or reliving the trauma. This person needs a little lead-in to your potential meltdown and can just hold you as you regulate your own emotions. The logical listener will help you work through issues as they arise, issues related to both the personal crisis and the work environment. This person will help you feel more grounded. Finally, the accountability partner, while loving and/or respecting you, will not let you wallow in self-pity or throw your career in the fire when things get tough.

Get a life outside of work.

My plan is to attend a bereavement group at a local church and to join a gym, and I need a physical. I’ve never had time for the gym between raising my children and taking care of my husband. I know the importance of a support group, guided by an expert in grief. I also know that I haven’t taken care of my body in the past year, sleeping at the hospital almost every night, eating at the cafeteria or getting fast food, and getting no exercise at all. By focusing on both my physical and mental health, I hope to take a little control back in my life that has been lost during my husband’s last year.

So as we enter a new school year, I hope I find those three people, or more, who will help me to survive. I hope I can follow through with my support group and the gym. Most of all, I hope I can maintain the joy that teaching has always brought to me without my husband there as my cheerleader. If you are going through something similar, I hope you find the support system that you need as well. Life happens to all of us, sometimes without warning. As teachers, we are expected to keep rolling along like the martyrs some assume that we are. But the thing I hope to do most effectively is to be present for my students. After all, they are our reason for showing up.

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By | 2016-11-01T13:47:04+00:00 July 27th, 2016|Confessions of a Teacher, Opinion|1 Comment

About the Author:

Amy Arnold is a mother, a teacher, a writer, an administrator, a parent coach, and exhausted!!! She has worked with students with special needs since 1994, and specialized in autism and related disorders for the last 15 years, including parent coaching, sibling workshops, and sensory training. When not focused on education, she enjoys playing guitar and writing fiction. She can be contacted at amyarnold08@gmail.com.

One Comment

  1. Franchesca Warren July 28, 2016 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    Great story Amy!

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