How to Help a Grieving Student

Sad student

Grief is one of the most intense and uniquely experienced emotions.

Without grief support, it's hard to imagine how anyone can process their feelings after a loss, let them out, and learn to move on with their lives.

In times of loss, children or students are especially susceptible to harm.

This is because grief has the potential to become an all-consuming weight, affecting a person's academic performance, interactions, and overall demeanor.

As a teacher, you can help a grieving student simply by encouraging them and being hopeful.

This involves reassuring your students that their feelings will improve over time.

Assure them that remembering their loss won't hurt as much as it does at that moment.

Another way to help a grieving student is by reminding the student that taking "breaks" from grieving is okay whenever they need to.

Encourage them to hang out with their friends and have some fun together.

Reassure them that a short break like this is perfectly acceptable.

Also, avoid putting children on a recovery schedule.

Mourning the loss of someone you love is a personal process that must be accorded the space and time it requires.

The time it takes some people to recover from grief can vary greatly.

Read on to learn more details about how to help a grieving student.

Winnie Siwa, LPCC

My goal is to empower you to reconnect with your authentic self, navigate life's challenges, and cultivate a life of meaning and purpose.

Seth Boughton, SWC

There is always light. If only we are brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.

Kelsey Maestas, LPCC

We can find it in ourselves to overcome!

Pueblo, Colorado
View details
Katie (Kate) Castillo, MS, LPCC

"Life is a balance of holding on and letting go."- Rumi

Colorado Springs, Colorado
View details

Be Encouraging and Hopeful

Returning to school after experiencing a loss can be the absolute worst for anyone.

As a teacher, what you can do to help a grieving student is to offer your support by encouraging them and being there for the student.

Reassure them that the good times they've had can never be forgotten.

Encourage them to be honest with themselves during their time of mourning.

Insist that they take things slowly and not put too much pressure on themselves or others who are also grieving.

It's not easy, but it's important to remind students to eat right, exercise, and get enough rest.

Encourage them to learn the importance of self-care by taking good care of their bodies.

Doing so shows them that things can and will improve over time.

Encouraging Students to Take "Breaks" From Their Grief if They Need To

While mourning, it's common to feel like one's entire world has stopped spinning, and all attention must be paid to the loss one has suffered.

Students might feel like doing other things besides wallowing in grief or immersing themselves in what they are feeling may seem like they are in the wrong.

To help a grieving student, you can explain that normal human responses to loss include sadness, then acceptance, and the start of a new life- living through the loss.

Encourage them to see that just because they're sad now doesn't mean they'll always feel this way.

You should tell your students that it's okay to take a "break" from their mourning whenever they need it.

Encourage them to take a step towards doing what they like.

Help them understand that it is okay to socialize and have fun with their friends.

Reassure them that this type of break is completely natural and acceptable.

Refrain From Setting a Schedule for Student's Recovery

Please keep in mind that everyone experiences grief differently.

To grieve is unique to each person.

The way a student deals with grief may depend on their age, developmental level, family, cultural background, grief experience, and coping strategies.

Some might be shy and reserved, while others might burst out with rage at the drop of a hat.

Also, keep in mind that dealing with loss can be a life-long journey.

A student who has experienced loss may not return to "normal" in a matter of weeks or months, or years.

Grief is not a temporary state; rather, it is an ongoing process that requires time to heal.

In everything you do, don't try to rush the process because you want them to feel better sooner; that is counterproductive. 

Grief & Loss Therapists in Colorado

Katie (Kate) Castillo, MS, LPCC

Katie (Kate) Castillo, MS, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Samantha Zavala, LPCC

Samantha Zavala, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Bethany Cantrell, LPC

Bethany Cantrell, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Melody Reynalds, LPC

Melody Reynalds, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Olivia Woodring, LPCC, NCC

Olivia Woodring, LPCC, NCC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Kristen Yamaoka-Los, LPC

Kristen Yamaoka-Los, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 481-3518
Jasleen Karir, SWC

Jasleen Karir, SWC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Tracey Lundy, LCSW

Tracey Lundy, LCSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Vanessa Dewitt, LCSW

Vanessa Dewitt, LCSW

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Naomi Kettner, LPC, NCC

Naomi Kettner, LPC, NCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374

Allow Them to Express Themselves

You can never really shield kids from sadness.

As a teacher, what you can do is give them a safe space to talk about it.

It's human nature to want to talk about the times we've lost someone close to us.

However, when dealing with a grieving student, remember the focus is on listening rather than talking.

Never try to make the situation about you by bringing up your painful losses; instead, give them room to vent.

Students, and especially younger children, can be reassured that they did nothing to cause death.

Beliefs of guilt are nearly universal in children who have experienced loss, even when there is no evidence to support such beliefs. 

Provide Learning Supports

Be compassionate and understanding toward grieving students.

Students who are grieving may have serious problems with concentration, memory, and learning.

They may also "dissociate" from their classroom experience or forget what they've learned quickly.

These are all normal reactions after a major loss, but they can have a negative effect on a person's performance in school.

One highly recommended way to help a grieving student is by creating a unique schedule for their classes.

There will always be students who require a modified curriculum or a different approach to class for a while.

In addition, they might require additional time to finish and hand in their work.

Another option you can try is to get the grieving student to work with another student as a "study buddy," if at all possible.

First, you should make sure both the grieving student and the "study buddy" are comfortable with the idea.

This method can be especially useful in the elementary school years; this may be a helpful intervention for students who are experiencing grief.

Most importantly, don't wait for issues at school to arise before offering support.

Have conversations with your students, their parents, and other influential school personnel like coaches and club sponsors.

You can use this group to coordinate the aid you give to the grieving student.

Conclusion

One can never overstate the value of grief support for a student who has suffered a loss.

Keep showing them you care and making sure they feel supported even when they assure you they are fine.

Some ways to help a grieving student include: being encouraging and hopeful, encouraging students to take "breaks" from their grief if they need to, refraining from setting a schedule for students' recovery, allowing them to express themselves, and providing learning support.

Resources 

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July 13th, 2024

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