End of school year: time for talk about transition and loss

Sad and happy birds wearing bows. Natalie, 5 years young

So let’s settle it right now: Life is tough. Hard lessons are part of our days and, I believe, life's invitation for inner growth.

I notice signs of unsettled children in classrooms and homes. I feel it myself. 

Change is in the air: the school year is ending, goodbyes to classmates are coming, a new summer routine is just around the corner.

It is a perfect time for a conversation about transition and loss.

Janice Mattina, founder and director of Center Montessori School, wisely raises awareness in her students that losses are part of life. She listens to them. 

A school year ends. 

Friends graduate and go to new schools. 

A parent takes a business or pleasure trip. 

Not getting a desired something. 

A pet dies. 

It's time to move to a new home or place. Even moving into a new bedroom at home is a chance to practice letting go.

A family member divorces. 

Grandmother passes. 

Janice moves the children from awareness to acceptance and understanding about change through conversations which require listening from the heart. Her intention is to help them embrace loss as a lifelong healing companion.

Loss as a learning and healing companion is an idea introduced to Janice and upper elementary and middle school-aged Center students by Karen Warren-Severson, MEd, NCC, a counselor and coach. Karen came into the classroom to teach a “Mending Hearts” workshop. 

Karen asks students questions such as “What do you believe about loss and grieving?
 And then, “If you accept loss as a lifelong companion, how will your grief change?” There's a pause between questions to give space and time to invite response from the kids. 

An honest, open discussion comes forth. Feelings such as relief, acceptance, and peace arise.

Karen leaves the students with heart-shaped pieces of cloth. The hearts have cuts in them, cuts that the children mend or sew closed as a metaphor for their healing process. After the activity, more cut hearts are placed on a shelf for later times. Wounds surface throughout our life. The activity is ready for whenever anyone is willing to reveal and heal.

It is not surprising that these children are able to more readily and openly talk about their losses after this workshop. 

After the workshop, when a child shares about loss, Janice listens and asks “Can you work with that?” And here is the miraculous wonder of children. The common reply is, “Yes I can work with that.


With willingness, it is possible to feel, share, mend, and let go. She listens. And then the heard student heads to the shelf to sew a heart.