Support for Grieving Students: A Team Makes It Happen

When a student experiences the death of a loved one, what should schools do? One essential step for a school supporting a grieving student is to work as a team in their efforts. Here’s an example.

Fifth grader Elia’s family was devastated when her older sister died in a car crash. Elia’s school stepped up to give Elia and her family whatever support they could.

Her teacher touched base with the family right away, attended the funeral service, and made adjustments in Elia’s coursework to ease her transition back to school. She also discussed the matter with Elia’s classmates to help them offer appropriate support when the girl returned to class.

GrievingStudents.jpgElia’s PE teacher and reading tutor were informed of the events. The principal encouraged everyone on staff to review content from the in-service on grieving students they had completed at the start of the year. The school counselor, school nurse, and district psychologist were all ready to speak to Elia if she wished. A pediatrician in the community who was a bereavement specialist was also notified, and stood ready to help.

These education professionals were taking appropriate steps to support their student. But with some coordination and teamwork, their impact can be even greater. Here are some other things they can do:

  • Have a team meeting to plan and coordinate support. Discuss each person’s unique role and potential contributions.
  • Choose a primary contact person for the family. Families may feel overwhelmed if they are contacted by many school staff.
  • Choose a primary contact person (or two) to provide support for the student for both the near and longer term. This helps avoid a mistaken assumption on any issue that “someone else is taking care of this.”

Learn about other steps teams can take to coordinate and plan their support at www.grievingstudents.org, the website of the Coalition to Support Grieving Students, of which NASSP is a member.

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