Chapter 2: Preparing for a student’s death
“The whole class was impacted in some way when we found out Johnny was terminally ill. When he could no longer return to class, we had an open discussion about it. Some of the students were very sad but others seemed very disbelieving and disconnected”. – Teacher
If you learn that a student is dying, your school has a valuable opportunity to plan how to best support the family and school community through their experiences of loss, death, and grief.
Open, honest, and ongoing communication will create opportunities for you to strategize ways that you can support the dying student and their family. You and your students will benefit from using this time to learn about the grieving process as you reflect on your own feelings about dying and death, and about this student’s impending death in particular.
The school, student, and their family should work together to choose a staff member who will be the family’s designated contact person.
A proactive approach can help everyone better prepare and plan for a death. Being honest with students about the impending death of a fellow student fosters a sense of trust in the adults around them. For students who wish to do so, it also provides them with opportunities to express their feelings of care to the dying student. In addition, it provides opportunities for educators to teach students about grief as a natural human response to the situation, and to help students equip themselves with tools to navigate their grief in healthy ways.