For educators overview
“I watched him (my student) go from being an A student to barely passing. He lost all interest in school and what was worse, I just couldn’t seem to reach him. I felt that he might ‘fall through the cracks.” - TeacherGrief is a healthy and normal response that can affect thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and physical well-being. It’s also the process that helps us come to terms with loss. However, grief in general and children’s grief in particular, are often misunderstood. This can compound a children’s suffering, leaving them emotionally isolated and confused.
Whatever your role within the educational system, as someone who works with students, you are in a unique position to provide grief support to them. Even a small gesture of support can have a significant, positive impact, both in the present and later on as your students mature and cope with any future losses.
You may encounter students who are grieving various deaths, such as a parent, sibling, or other family member; a classmate or friend; a teacher or member of your school staff. Your colleagues may also be grieving one of these deaths; and, of course, so may you. It can be beneficial to address your own grief first (or in tandem with) supporting your students and their family. MyGrief.ca is a helpful resource to support you.
These modules offer both structured and general guidelines for providing grief support to students under varying circumstances. They may also help you to understand your own grief and that of your colleagues when someone in your school community dies. In addition, while these modules address grief specific to dying and death, many of the strategies suggested here will be useful for supporting students dealing with other losses unrelated to dying or death.
Module 1, Grief in the classroom will help you (1) Recognize student grief; (2) Apply strategies to help students cope with Covid-19 related impact, death, and grief; (3) Identify ‘teachable moments’; (4) Implement support strategies for all students. In addition, there is a focus on pre-school, high school and students with intellectual disabilities.
Module 2, Strategies for supporting grieving students will introduce you to (1) Strategies for communicating with the student and their family including when they are reluctant to share; (2) Making a plan with the student and family; (3) Considerations and strategies for when a family member dies; and (4) Considerations and long-term strategies for the student.
Module 3, Support for student deaths highlights (1) The importance of good communication and collaboration with the family of a student who is dying or has died. (2) Proactive strategies such as developing a school-wide death response plan and incorporating topics of illness, dying, death, and grief into your curriculum; (3) Creating opportunities for discussion and questions; (4) Suggestions and resources for responding to a death from suicide; and (5) Reminders to attend to your own grief.
Module 4, Considerations for administrators is intended to help administrators plan for and respond to the death of a student, a student’s family members, or a staff member in your school.; and will explain the importance of developing and putting a plan in place in the event of a death within your school community.
Notes about language:
"Parent" is used to refer to anyone who has direct legal responsibility for the daily well-being of a child. This could include other family members, guardians, foster parents, or others in a parental role. References to "primary caregiver" in videos refer to all of these individuals.
The content is appropriate for children in childcare centres (age two) to high school students; for ease of reading, we refer to them as “students”.
"Child” or “children" is used to refer to all children under the age of majority (18 or 19 depending on jurisdiction).