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TomPB

Grief changes how others perceive us

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I've always been well respected as a teacher. However, for the last three semesters, my course evaluations have crashed from good to horrible, even tho I haven't deliberately changed anything, except my ongoing efforts to improve the course. I don't think it can be coincidence that the period of horrible evals coincides with me entering grief world. A lot of student comments call me "rude". I thought I was handling it, but my sadness and negativity must have come across in a way that the students thought was directed at them. Maybe I was less careful about how I spoke to them. It's a wake-up call for the care a grieving person has to use when interacting with the "earth people". 

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1 hour ago, TomPB said:

A lot of student comments call me "rude". I thought I was handling it, but my sadness and negativity must have come across in a way that the students thought was directed at them. Maybe I was less careful about how I spoke to them.

I'm wondering, Tom, whether you've ever shared with your students a bit about what has happened in your life that might be affecting you now. You needn't go into great detail, but offering a simple explanation might go a long way toward their cutting you some slack. Can you think of how you might disclose to them that, while you are trying your best to carry on in the wake of the  most devastating loss of your life, you know that there will be times when you may fall short of the mark. You might reassure them that it has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you, and you need for them to be patient with you ~ something along those lines? ❤️

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I was thinking the same thing.  I read another's account of something similar, co-workers and insubordinates reporting the person to the boss as rude, etc.  They thought it was good to keep personal separate from business so hadn't told them about their loss/grief...we all suggested they might do so, not in over detail but just letting them know it happened so they can take that into account and realize the person has something on their plate and it's not personally directed to them. This person is now in fear they're losing their job.  

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Marty and kayc, thanks for responding. I've thought about this and still think it's really not something to share. Seems to me that co-workers and students represent very different relationships. My approach from here on will be to be super nice and on red alert for anything that might inadvertently hurt their feelings. I THINK I can do it tho I'm very aware that I'm a bad judge of what I'm projecting.

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I understand, Tom ~ but I also think that, as a teacher (and I don't know the age of your students) your role includes not only adhering to your regular lesson plans, but also modeling healthy ways to deal with life ~ and in my mind, there is nothing wrong with a teacher demonstrating to his students that death is a natural part of living, and feeling sad in the wake of significant loss is not only normal, but healthy. Being "super nice" when you're feeling the exact opposite is phony and fundamentally dishonest ~ and you're missing an opportunity to teach your students one of the most important lessons in life. ♥️

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Thanks friends, but I don't agree that being extra careful and on guard about grief appearing as negativity directed at another person, or student, is phony. It's important to me to have good relations with my students and, having had this wake up call, I'm going to respond. I'll ask for thoughts about telling them my situation but don't expect I will decide to do so.

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I think it can be simply put and brief and you needn't go into detail...just imparting that bit of information will elicit more understanding and tolerance on their part, particularly since we are NOT in our clearest thinking and ourselves in grief, it can take quite a while to get clarity and perception back...in early grief it's all about us and our filter is one of grief.  It DOES affect how we come across to others!

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Tom, my dear, I wonder what would happen if you asked a fellow teacher (someone you know, respect and trust) what he or she thinks about this matter of whether to share your grief (as Kay says, simply put and brief, with no need to go into great detail) with your students? For example, this article shares one teacher's experience: The Grieving Teacher ~ and be sure to scroll down to read the comments at the end: 10 Thoughts on "The Grieving Teacher". Of course, whatever you decide to do is completely up to you ~ but we all know that hiding our grief takes way more energy than acknowledging it ~ and doing so also contributes to the death-denying and grief-avoidant culture that we all complain about when others seem so inept at understanding and offering their support to the bereaved. As I stated earlier, you are a teacher, and you are in an excellent position to influence, to educate, and to model for young people how to share their truth. 

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I think it varies from person to person and situation to situation. In my case, Tammy's loss was obviously the most devastating life changing event in my life. I stayed away from work for a couple months to try to "gather myself" as much as I could. Upon my arrival back to work, co-workers (who were aware of Tammy's passing) saw the devastation on my face, no doubt. They saw the sadness. They understood (to the degree they could). But, I work in a very public place and deal with hundreds of people per day. Those customers still saw me as the friendly, funny, kind person I always was. When they asked where I had been and I told them about Tammy, they were shocked.

I've kind of learned over the years how to "put on the good act" with the public. Then, I get into my car after work and break down. Tears covering my face on the drive home.

I don't think it's a universal thing that others perceive us as rude or that we all project negativity to others from our grief. 

Tom, those students are reacting to the pain you're feeling and projecting to some extent. Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to talk to the students briefly about your greiving without going into any uncomfortable personal details. Or, do what I do and "put on the happy face".

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I'm sure that grief does not make us all project negativity. However it does for me. 

Appreciate the advice but not doing it. Long story short, I'm being extra careful about how I talk to them. Susan would not want the grief I feel for being left behind to make others unhappy also.

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