District partners with grief non-profit Kara to hold parent meetings

Written by Stephy Jackson

Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) partnered with Kara, a Palo Alto-based non-pro t that deals with grief support for children, teens and families, to coordinate  meetings for parents in Palo Alto. When the Palo Alto community goes through a time of grief, PAUSD relies on Kara to provide support for teachers, staff and adults. These lecture-based meetings took place on Aug. 24 and 31 at the Cubberley Community Center; Kara leaders facilitated discussion about how parents can understand their children’s grief and how they can support them through it.

Kara was created 40 years ago as an outlet of support for parents during di cult times. PAUSD has previously partnered with Kara to provide support in the a ermath of suicide clusters in Palo Alto. Executive Director of Kara Jim Santucci believes in the importance of grief support. “[ e goal of Kara is] to support the school district and to provide care, compassion, connection and community when the school, district, parents [and] teachers go through loss,” he said. “[We hope] to be able to provide a support system to help them navigate these losses along the way and developing a trusting relationship where we’re a trusted partner that they can call on.”

The recent Kara meetings were a joint effort between Kara and Gunn’s Wellness Center. They were taught by Kara Director of Community Outreach Jaymie Byron. In these meetings, Kara members talked about specific examples from their own lives related to some of the things parents or students might be going through. Kara presenters welcomed parents to share their thoughts and feelings regarding what they should be doing to help. Byron focused on clarifying any questions that parents had about their children and guiding parents through grief. “I think one of the most important things to know about grief is that grief is unique to the individual,” Byron said. “ ere is no right way to grieve, there is no wrong way to grieve and it’s specific to you.”

In addition to talking to parents, Kara mentors have been working with the teachers at Gunn in a similar way. During the two meetings, Byron spoke about how teachers are a ected by grief just as students are, and she mentioned that teachers tend to prioritize caring for their students be- fore caring for themselves. “[Teachers] put themselves aside, and they focus solely on the students, which is beautiful and great because that is how community is built, but it’s also really hard for their self care,” Byron said.

Through holding parent meetings and collaborating with school teachers, Kara is working towards supporting the Gunn community. e members of Kara, along with staff members in the Wellness Center, are focused on sup- porting teachers, staff members and parents of the Gunn community. “When [the teachers and parents] hear your stories and they hear the emotion in it, they are impacted too, and so they need somewhere to offload and feel like they get seen and heard,” Byron said.

Finally, Byron stressed that students, staff, parents and teachers should all be aware of their own support systems. “One thing that I would love people to walk away knowing is [that] the grief process is something you go through at your own pace and when you’re ready,” Byron said. “Being a great support to your friends is important, but don’t forget to be a great support for yourself.”