Chapter 2: Preparing for a student’s death

Maintaining connection with the ill student

What the grief expert says
Camara van Breemen, nurse practitioner, talks about classroom activities that can be done to support a child who is sick or has died. (3:22)Video transcript
What the educator says
Shane Dilka, resource/learning support teacher, talks about supporting an ill child who could no longer attend school.(3:22)
Sue Massaad, elementary school principal, talks about maintaining connection with the family of a child who is dying.(3:22)Video transcript

“I think it really helped us as a class to talk about it together and then make cards and record a video of our messages for Johnny. I know his parents were also very grateful for our efforts”. – Teacher

Students with a life-limiting illness will likely want to feel and be treated as normal as possible. Maintaining a connection with them can provide valuable support and be very meaningful to them. 

Roll your mouse over each of the pictures to view different ways you can facilitate this. 


Tip 1



Continue to incorporate them into everyday school life as much as possible.


Tip 2



Consider adapting activities in the classroom to meet the student’s changing physical needs.


Tip 3



Talk with your student and, if they are agreeable, collaborate with other students by asking them to come up with suggestions as a to what might be helpful and inclusive.



A student who is no longer able to physically attend school or has many absences due to appointments, hospitalizations, or general decline may experience an accompanying decline in their emotional health and an increased sense of isolation. Ongoing communication remains very important. 

Roll your mouse over each of the pictures to view a tip to help you with this. 

Tip 4



Explore with the parents and student as to how much continuing contact with the school would be helpful.


Tip 5



Offer suggestions, such as linking by technology at scheduled times or visits from other students or staff.


Tip 6



If visits are not welcome, you (or the designated school contact) may be able to reduce the burden on the family by communicating this to students and staff.



In addition to any ideas generated by your class, your school as a whole may be able to come up with ways to show support. In particular, communications that can be revisited can provide great support. The student and their family will most appreciate tangible projects. 

Roll your mouse over each of the pictures to view some suggestions.

Tip 7



Artwork that expresses a cherished characteristic or significant story related to an experience with the student (e.g., a giant card, individual cards, or artwork).


Tip 8



Alternative art projects such as pictures, paper cranes, or shapes (such as hearts) that can be strung up easily for decoration in a hospital room or at home.


Tip 9



Making a video that includes individual or group messages from the school and classmates,


Tip 10



Videoconferencing the ill student into a classroom for a specific activity or lesson.