How to Help Support Grieving Students

​Every person experiences grief in different ways. For children, it can be especially difficult to express the complex feelings they encounter ​during periods of uncertainty or grief.

During these times, adults can serve as sources of stability and comfort for children who feel strong, sometimes confusing, emotions.

This helpful article from Edutopia -- co-authored by Dr. David Schonfeld director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement. -- suggests these tips for adults who want to help support grieving students.

  • Help Younger Students Understand What Has Happened: When speaking with young children about death, use unambiguous words such as "dead" and "died." Reinforcing the basic realities of death -- that it is irreversible, that everyone eventually dies, and that there are physical reasons why someone dies -- helps remove common misconceptions and can decrease feelings of worry, guilt and shame that might accompany death.
  • Invite Older Students to Talk: School is a critical place for older students to receive care from trusted adults. Older students may not be ready to talk when you offer to speak with them. Don't try to force the conversation. Help them identify other adults with whom they can speak when they are ready, such as a guidance counselor or mental health provider. Remain available and supportive, and continue offering to talk with them from time to time.​
  • Allow Children to Express Themselves: The goal is not to take away the pain of grief, but to allow an opportunity for children to express it. Avoid comments aimed at trying to cheer up students who are grieving. With grieving children, it's important to listen more and talk less.​ You can also reassure students -- young children, in particular -- that they are not responsible for the death.
You can find more resources on how to help support grieving children by clicking the links below: