Chapter 3: After a student’s death

Communicating with the bereaved family

“I felt just awful having to confirm with Jacob’s dad that his son had been killed in the traffic accident. The man was in complete anguish.  I’m a dad too and this was heart wrenching”. - Principal

man on phoneWhen someone in the school community learns of a death, the school’s principal should be notified immediately, so that they can confirm the death with the family and take the lead on notifying teachers and other staff. 

Once the death has been confirmed, it helps to have a designated contact person identified who can be the key person communicating with the family. Ideally this is a staff member with whom the family is comfortable.

It’s natural to feel uncomfortable when reaching out to a parent who is in the midst of profound grief. Many people are concerned about “saying the wrong thing” or “making things worse”. 


An additional consideration is to ensure that automated ‘school absence’ phone calls are not sent to the family.


See also:For additional communication strategies and tips, see Nine tips for speaking with a grieving person in Module 2 – Strategies for Supporting Grieving Students, Chapter 1 – Communication strategies.