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Flowers help students cope with losses, brighten the day

Fifth grade student Qua'shai Varner and sixth grade teacher Lisa Lupo are memorialized at Mason Elementary School with a flower garden grown in their honor after they died this year.
Fifth grade student Qua'shai Varner and sixth grade teacher Lisa Lupo are memorialized at Mason Elementary School with a flower garden grown in their honor after they died this year.
Courtesy of Ed Suba Jr. Akron Beacon Journal

When a fellow fifth grade student and a sixth grade teacher at the Mason Elementary School passed away this year in Akron, Ohio the school's substitute counselor coordinated an event to help them cope, according to a June 2 report from the Akron Beacon Journal. The goal was to plant flowers to cope with grief being experienced by the students and faculty.

These soft pink buds and blooms adorn a home from a garden tour event.
These soft pink buds and blooms adorn a home from a garden tour event.
Courtesy of Constancekmorrisphotography.com

It has helped. And Kathy Kaylor, a teaching assistant reassigned to the school last year, when the special education was moved from Barrett Elementary to Mason, says that the children "have had some distance now from the death and that stage of the grieving" process, since the student Qua' Shai Varner passed away in January and teacher Lisa Lupo followed in death in February. And that they are now ready to transition from "managing the deaths" to "celebrating their lives" in this unique way.

We can move on now to appreciate the people they were through the garden," Kaylor said.

And the children seemed to be doing that, remembering things about each person they really liked as they now work in the dirt to encourage flower growth. But if they had not moved in this tangible direction the children might not have coped as well, since many students admitted hat they had not felt like opening up to the grief counselors provided to them by the Akron school system.

Kids Health reports that it can be difficult for parents and other adults to know how to help children cope with loss, especially if one is dealing with that loss as well, like when a fellow teacher passes away.

Planting flowers in a garden can help people deal with their grief and loss of a loved one, just like sending flowers to a funeral is meant to convey love and concern for those family and friends mourning their own loss. Yet flowers also help us to celebrate the positive events in life, like a wedding or a birthday, so it is a fitting tribute that the fifth and sixth grade students are being encouraged to grow something as a living memorial to someone who they loved that has died.

And each year as the blooms return, these Mason Elementary School students will be reminded that life continues, even when a death occurs, whether it is in a garden or a home or a school. It is a lesson their teacher Lisa Lupo might have taught them if she were still here, but also one she now teaches them, touchingly, through her own death and the flowers they plant. For some ideas about flowers you can plant for your own memorial garden, or to see how calming and relaxed it can make you feel to look upon beautiful flowers, check out the slideshow above or these flower photos from Southern Living Plants.