Chapter 2: Supporting students coping with Covid-19 grief
Talking about Covid related impacts, death, and grief in the classroom
“Even though the students are glad to be in school, the new way of doing things feels foreign and abnormal to many of us – students and teachers alike. I think it is important to have open discussions about it to try to validate and normalize our feelings.” - Teacher
You are uniquely positioned to engage students in conversations about COVID-19 effects, death, and grief, as well as how they are impacted by these experiences. There is an opportunity to allow your students to explore their feelings about the pandemic and to support them in developing coping skills to live with their grief and other tough experiences during the pandemic and throughout their lives. Labelling the common emotions and thoughts associated with grief will normalize this experience and give students the language to continue the conversation.
The following questions may be common in students’ minds and may be worth bringing up for discussions.
Am I going to get it?
Are my parents going to get it?
Are we going to die?
Information for addressing this can be found in the Kids Grief modules. See reference below.
To start, you can introduce students to the general concept of change in everyday life and facilitate a conversation about how their lives have changed due to COVID-19. Challenge students to talk about good as well as hard changes. As the conversations centre around the hard and difficult changes in life and the changes resulting from the current pandemic, incorporate the concept of grief and that it is a full human experience (physical, emotional, social and psychological) resulting from a loss, which includes change.
Click on the arrows below to view some changes students (and our global society) are experiencing because of COVID-19.
Physical distancing and wearing masks in public.
Changed work situations for parents (working from home, not working, increased risk at the workplace).
Isolation from friends and family.
Worry about friends and family who are at higher risk if they contract COVID-19.
Exposure to media coverage of COVID-19 (growing numbers of cases and deaths, images, stories, etc.).
A shifting sense of safety when out in public.
Keep the grief conversation going
Let students know that grief does not have a beginning, middle or end and that our experience of grief is ever-changing. Let students know that they can continue to bring up their thoughts and feelings about it. Invite questions, ongoing conversations, and check-ins throughout the year.
See also:KidsGrief.ca, Talking about dying and death, Chapter 4, Explaining Death and Dying and Chapter 5 The 4 C’s (Can I catch it? Did I cause it? Can I cure it? Who will take care of me?)