Chapter 3: When a family member has died

Strategies immediately following a death

What the educator says
Sue Massaad, elementary school principal, talks about activites that classmates can do to show support when a family is grieving. (3:22)Video transcript
What the parent says
David talks about the support the school provided to his son following the death of his mom.(3:22)Video transcript
What the educator says
Sue Massaad, elementary school principal, talks about attending funerals following the death of someone in the school community.(3:22)Video transcript

“She was only six, but she certainly was impacted. She was quiet and withdrawn and very sad. I kept an eye on her and encouraged her to draw what she was feeling or thinking about (inside of what the rest of the class was focusing on) for her art projects if she wanted to”. – Teacher 

Strategies for working with the student’s family

The following suggestions can help you find strategies suited to your grieving student. 

Click each box to explore. 

For younger students…

…encourage the student’s parent(s) to let you know about any concerns they may have about how the student is responding to the death.

For middle-aged and high school students…

… make sure they are comfortable with your being in contact with their parent(s). Reassure them that the goal of any communication with their parent(s) is to help create the most supportive environment possible for them at school.

Check in with the family

When possible, check in with the family as to whether your student is open to your acknowledging the death to them directly upon their return to school. While some students are open to the person’s death being acknowledged by their educators, others prefer that no one says anything directly to them, particularly in the early days following the death.