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Talking About Death (Ways to Approach)


What do we tell children?

This will depend on the developmental age of the child(ren), the nature of the death and the emotional involvement. The concept of death undergoes continuous change as the child grows cognitively and emotionally. It will help to familiarize yourself with developmental stages as outlined in, Grief Reactions

Guidelines for Staff :
□Say "I don't know" when you don't know.

□Feel comfortable asking for help. This experience need not be handled alone.

□Provide the opportunity for students to ask questions. Develop an environment in which students feel perfectly safe to ask any questions, and completely confident of receiving an honest answer.

□Use correct terminology related to death (i.e., avoid euphemisms – "gone on a long journey", etc.)

□Listen and empathize. Make sure you hear what is said and not what you think the student ought to have said.

□Allow the students to express as much grief as they are able or willing to share with you.

□Share your own feelings and tell about your own memories of the child, but don't idealize the dead child.

□Recognize the impact of death upon students. Classroom routines and management may be disrupted. This isnatural – be flexible. Provide opportunities for the expression of feelings – journal writing, art, creating cards, etc. Slowly reintegrate structure.

□Maintain a sympathetic attitude toward the student's age-appropriate responses. Emphasize that no matter how bad you feel, after a time, laughing and playing does not mean you love the person less.

□Emphasize that people who are loved are kept alive by memories ("grateful memory"). Organize activities that will allow students to tangibly express their grief (e.g., memorials, letters, etc.)

□Inform class about mourning rituals such as funeral homes, burial service, cremation, and possible cultural differences. Children should be prepared for what they will see.

□Discuss responses to grief. Be aware that grief reactions may occur unexpectedly.

□In the event of parental or sibling death, ask the child what he or she wants, particularly with regard to telling classmates. It may be helpful to coach or rehearse with the child what to tell classmates or, for example, how he/she will handle questions on the playground. He/she may need help with some ideas that he/she may wish to tell his/her friends in some detail which occurred, but have briefer response for acquaintances. There may be some worries about being teased by    others, and in fact this may actually occur, and school personnel can assist better if they are aware of this.

□If symptoms of grieving are prolonged or extreme, express your concern to guidance. Appropriate professional help may be necessary. Professional resources are immediately available to families and student(s) through guidance.

□Be aware of special occasions, like Mother's Day, and how your activities may affect a bereaved child.