How To Teach Your Students about Loss

a young student in a classroom

Losing a loved one can be frightening, confusing, and difficult, especially for children and adolescents.

Children who experience loss are at higher risk of developing mental health problems, emotional breakdowns, physical ailments, and the inability to grieve their loss properly.

Although children often rely on parental support, teachers are in a unique position to not only impact knowledge but also provide grief support.

Thus, as a teacher, it is imperative to learn how to teach your students about loss.

The first step in supporting grieving students is teaching them the reality of loss and death.

Children can get easily confused when others use euphemisms such as "slept in the Lord" or "passed away" to describe the death of their loved one.

Instead, using words such as "dying" or "dead" helps the student understand the reality of the situation.

Then you can give your students the opportunity to grieve properly.

Teach them about the emotions associated with grieving and encourage them always to share their feelings when they feel like it.

Also, you can organize class activities for grieving students in the classroom.

This can also help other non-bereaved students understand the practical steps to take after loss and provide grief support for others.

Read on to learn more ways you can teach your students about loss.

Grief & Loss Therapists in Colorado

Mackenzie Batson, LPCC

Mackenzie Batson, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Heather Comensky, LPC

Heather Comensky, LPC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Randal Thomas, SWC

Randal Thomas, SWC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Kelsey Maestas, LPCC

Kelsey Maestas, LPCC

Pueblo, Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Winnie Siwa, LPCC

Winnie Siwa, LPCC

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Sierra Brown, SWC

Sierra Brown, SWC

(719) 345-2424
Bethany Cantrell, LPC

Bethany Cantrell, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Carrie Nelson, MS, LPCC

Carrie Nelson, MS, LPCC

(719) 345-2424
Sarah Munk, LPC

Sarah Munk, LPC

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Olivia Woodring, LPCC, NCC

Olivia Woodring, LPCC, NCC

(719) 345-2424

Help Students Understand the Reality of Death

It is difficult for children to cope with loss when they don't fully understand the concept of death and loss.

These misunderstandings can cause confusion, worry, fear, and an increased sense of guilt.

Thus, to teach your students about loss and help them cope with personal loss, you must help them understand the reality of death.

One thing children should know is that death is irreversible.

Using euphemisms such as "resting" or "sleeping" can confuse children about the permanence of loss.

Helping students to understand that death is permanent and that the lost loved one will no longer return will allow them to accept the situation and begin their grieving process.

Also, you can teach your students about the physical causes of death.

You can use simple words and brief explanations appropriate for your student's developmental level to help them understand certain illnesses, diseases, or circumstances that may cause death.

This will help minimize the possibility of students feeling guilty or blaming themselves for their personal losses later in life.

Helping your students understand the facts of the situation will help them overcome the fear, uncertainty, and guilt they may experience as a result of grief. 

Give Them the Opportunity to Grieve 

Children are more likely to experience unfamiliar and challenging feelings such as isolation, anger, or guilt when they lack appropriate support and opportunity to grieve after a loss.

Thus, as a teacher, you can teach your students about loss by allowing them to grieve when they lose a loved one.

An excellent approach to helping students grieve healthily is teaching them to identify the emotions that come with grief.

Ask students about movies they have seen or stories they read that included a character losing a loved one, and ask them to describe the character's reaction to the loss.

Encourage students to share their feelings and talk about their emotions.

Also, you can emphasize how important it is to talk about their feelings after experiencing loss.

Encourage grieving students to share their feelings with friends, family, or teachers they feel comfortable with.

If the students decide to talk to you, endeavor to listen to them with your full attention and provide support and reassurance.

Similarly, it is crucial that students understand there's no right or wrong way to grieve.

Avoid telling grieving students how to feel or setting a timetable for recovery.

Often, when children aren't allowed to grieve appropriately, grief responses such as anxiety or fear may worsen and continue into adulthood.

Thus, providing support and reassurance is best while allowing your students to grieve at their own pace.

Organize Class Activities to Help Grieving Students

Another helpful way to teach your students about loss is to organize class activities that can help grieving students express and cope with grief.

Activities such as making a memory necklace or bracelet and wearing it can help the child feel close and connected to their lost loved one whenever they feel lonely.

Likewise, you can introduce less vocal students to journaling to help them express their feelings and clear their minds without having to speak aloud.

Also, you can encourage students to write letters, make an acrostic, and create paintings or drawings for their lost loved ones.

These activities provide art therapy for grieving students and help them cope with sudden loss.

Bereaved children and adolescents need support from parents and teachers in understanding and adjusting to life without their lost loved ones.

Encouraging students to engage in practical activities can help them cope with difficult life transitions.

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Stefanie Kerr, LPCC

"There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn't." - John Green

Colorado Springs, Colorado

(719) 203-7021

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Katie (Kate) Castillo, MS, LPCC

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

Colorado Springs, Colorado

(719) 345-2424

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Kimberly Nefflen, LPCC

"Although the world is full of suffering it is also full of the overcoming of it." Helen Keller

Colorado Springs, Colorado

(719) 602-1342

Teach Healthy Coping Habits 

While teaching children the concept of loss and grief is important, children will also benefit from learning healthy coping habits that can help them grief properly and cope with any loss they may encounter later on in life.

Teachers can help students to develop an emotional vocabulary to assist them in naming, describing, and expressing their feelings.

Teaching students emotions like mad and sad and other complex words like confused, anxious, and overwhelmed is essential.

Let them know that these feelings are normal grief responses and that feeling sad or hurt is okay.

You can also encourage students to practice calming activities when they feel overwhelmed by their feelings of grief.

Calming activities, including breathing exercises, singing, visualizing a quiet place, skipping, singing, or painting, are excellent for children and adolescents going through grief.

Similarly, daily tasks like sleeping, eating, bathing, etc., can be difficult for children and adolescents grieving.

Thus, it's essential to help them understand the importance of self-care for their healing journey and physical health. 

Go Beyond the Classroom 

An excellent way to teach your students about loss is to enlighten students about death proactively.

Teachers should give prior education beyond the classroom to students about loss and grief to prepare them early for the possibilities.

For instance, occasional group discussions, assemblies, and visits to a funeral home will give students the opportunity to understand the reality of death, what happens next, and the funeral planning process.

Although this can be difficult for both students and teachers, it is vital to helping students understand loss and grief.

Also, you can increase awareness of self-help books and self-help organizations that can be helpful to students and their family members.

This will ensure the students get help outside the school's walls.

Coping with loss can be difficult for children; however, teachers are uniquely positioned to help students understand death, cope with loss and navigate their way through grief.


School-based support for grief is essential for students experiencing the death of a loved one.

While grief will affect each student differently depending on their personal characteristics, developmental level, previous experiences, etc., teaching your students about loss will help them understand grief and how to cope.

As a teacher, you can teach your student about loss by helping them understand the reality of death, allowing them to grieve, organizing class activities to help grieving students, teaching healthy coping habits, and going beyond the class to improve the student's knowledge.


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July 14th, 2024

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