Almost every day, life insurance agents and financial advisors have opportunities to make a difference for their clients on an individual basis. Opportunities to champion an issue of great social importance to families in their communities are harder to come by.

But that’s what New York Life is aspiring to do with our commitment to help schools support millions of students who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

Loss is a pervasive reality at school: 70 percent of teachers surveyed by the American Federation of Teachers and the New York Life Foundation said they have at least one grieving student in their classroom. Indeed, research indicates that one in 15 U.S. children will experience the death of a parent or sibling by age 18. And nearly all children encounter some type of loss as they grow up—whether it be the death of a classmate or friend or a community tragedy or act of violence.

Grieving students often find it challenging to return to their classroom following a loss, experiencing a range of academic and emotional problems. Educators want to help; in our survey, 92 percent of teachers agreed that grief is a serious classroom problem deserving more attention. But at the same time, 93 percent said they had never received bereavement training—and only 3 percent said their school or district even offered this training.

In response to this critical training gap, we have launched the Grief-Sensitive Schools Initiative (GSSI), a nationwide program that helps educators in local schools tap the guidance and resources they need to better aid their grieving students.

GSSI is the latest demonstration of our long-standing corporate support for the childhood bereavement field. As a life insurance company, helping families cope with the death of a loved one—both financially and emotionally—is at the heart of our mission and day-to-day business. Broadening that concern into an arena of special need—our nation’s schools—is a natural extension of that mission.

Back To School

GSSI relies on hundreds of New York Life agents and employees who have volunteered to reach out to their local schools and present educators with a broad range of available grief resources, developed by partners who specialize in this field. Schools taking part in the initiative can earn financial support from our Foundation and, ultimately, be designated as a “Grief-Sensitive School.”

Our workforce participants are seeing firsthand the value that such vital support can create—and are gratified by the results of their service. Among the comments we have heard from the field:

• “The school I presented to loved this program. They are very touched and thankful.”

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