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Terminal Illness or Death of a Student/Staff Member


Guidelines with Terminally Ill Student or Staff Member

□ Become informed, without being an expert.

□ Be realistic about the ill Relay some of the positive remarks of staff and students. "The deceased will always be remembered for..."

□ If there is no personal information, speak in general terms about the loss of a young life and the value of the brief time spent together.

□ Invite the students to participate in memorial/remembrance activities. (i.e. only with approval and directed by principal and superintendent.

Concluding Remarks

□ Recognize the emotions arising from the situation, the need to support one another, the "normalcy" of grief responses (i.e. tears), the importance of recognizing the value of the person's life.

□ Advise students of where the "quiet room" will be.

□ End by giving factual funeral arrangement information.                                                                                                                                                                            

□ Honour the dying person's choice of religious belief.                                                                                                                                                                                

□ Allow the dying person his or her right to hope. 

□ Acknowledge the dying person's feelings, as well as the feelings of others affected. 

□  Avoid excesses and special treatment whenever possible.

□ Be flexible; all plans may change.

□ Listen and allay students' misconceptions and fears through open, honest discussion.

□ Appropriate to the age level.

□ Decide on what students are to be told.

□ Choose an advocate for the dying student. This may be a guidance counsellor, teacher, secretary, custodian or educational assistant. This person would be the vital link between the student and the school. The advocate would be available for the dying student;  encouraging teachers and classmates to send cards, or to make hospital visits, and to attend to the academic work. Later, after the death of the student, the advocate would be available to the bereaved parents. Parents of children who have died and dying students have stressed that to have an advocate within the school is one of the most  important gestures a school can make to help reduce the social isolation that become more acute as the dying student is away from school for longer periods of time.

​□  Initiate support network for students and staff.

□  Be a good listener.

□  Encourage the child, if he or she wishes, to write about his or her feelings, fears and/or wishes.

□ Be frank and honest if you do not know the answer.

□  Consider possibility of home instruction.

□  Encourage the child to live each moment, express his or her concerns for others. Many dying children are more worried about their parents and siblings than themselves, once they have accepted their own death.

□  Do not lie to these children. They need support, not false statements like "Oh, aren't we looking so much better today!"

□  Learn from that child because, as the physical side decline, the spiritual side develops.

□  The staff member can become the learner – to better help others in the future.

Death of a Staff Member

□ When a staff member dies, an authority figure should give accurate information regarding the circumstances.

□ Children should be encouraged to ask questions and be given honest, factual answers. Emotional support from school personnel, peers and parents is essential.

□ A memorial/remembrance service by the class and school may be appropriate only with the permission of the family and approval of Principal and Superintendent.

□ Acceptance of a new staff member may be a problem. There may be clashes between the new teacher and the children.

□ Children may feel responsible and experience guilt over the death of a staff member. Clarify and discuss.

□ Children may identify staff member death with the possibility of a parental death, especially when ages coincide.