Chapter 1: Recognizing student grief

Common signs of grief in the classroom

What the educator says
Sue Massaad, elementary school principal, talks about how students grief can manifest in the classroom. (3:22)Video transcript
What the parent says
Jenny talks about Mae's ongoing grief for her sister Phoebe. (3:22)Video transcript

“She used to have a sunny disposition but lately I’ve been noticing she gets easily agitated with her classmates and sometimes she becomes emotional over seemingly small things that would never have bothered her before.”  - Teacher

Look for changes in behaviour, performance or personality. You’ll need to observe and consider whether or not this is a new behaviour and how it might be related to a student’s grief. Here are some examples of behaviours and signs you may notice in your classroom.

Click on the arrows.


Grief will very likely complicate any existing challenges, such as an illness or disability. Also, a student’s response to a new loss will be affected, positively or negatively, by any previous ones.


See also:Supporting Bereaved Students at School (2017). Edited by Jacqueline A. Brown & Shane R. Jimerson. Oxford University Press.