Chapter 1: Recognizing student grief
When grief resurfaces
“At my grade 8 graduation, I found it so hard not to have my mom there. I’d been excited all year for my graduation, and since she died when I was in grade 2, it didn’t even occur to me that I’d be feeling a tremendous amount of grief for her on that day.” - Student
Grief support is not about helping your students to “get over” or “move on from” their grief; it’s about helping them to integrate their loss into their lives in the healthiest possible way. Re-grieving is a valuable part of this process as they learn how to live with grief rather than trying to ignore or eliminate it.
Grief doesn’t simply end one day. For most of us it eventually becomes less of a focal point, but it can resurface throughout our lives. This is especially true for children and youth. They will often “re-grieve” a death as they develop and gain new understandings of the concept of death and their experiences. Adults are sometimes surprised by the resurfacing of a child’s grief while they are supporting them, especially if it happens months or years later.
Your students’ grief may resurface near special “anniversary” dates or “milestone” events.
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The anniversary of a person’s death.
The birthday of the person who died.
The student’s own birthday.
Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.
Transition to a new school.
Prom or graduation.
Cultural observance days such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza.
Grief can also resurface as the young person’s perception of the world, themselves, or their relationship with the person who died evolves. This is a normal and expected part of child development.
Your student’s grief can resurface at any time. Be mindful of significant dates such as Mother’s/Father’s Day, birthdays, and the anniversary of the death. Be prepared to offer your support and remember that not all students show signs of their grief.