Grief Management

What it is

Grief management skills are positive ways of coping with loss and the associated negative feelings. Grief management skills can include: acknowledging emotions, being prepared for fluctuating emotions, understanding that the process is individualized, seeking out support from others, taking care of physical self, monitoring for depression.

Strategies

• Alert all school staff that works with the student to the situation, discuss at Student Success Meeting in secondary
• Be honest
• Listen
• Label and validate feelings
• Maintain a routine
• Consider establishing a special role for the student, like a class helper or a helper with younger students, in communication with parents/guardians
• Observe the student and communicate regularly with parents/guardians
• Encourage questions about death and managing grief feelings
• Connect student with available in-school supports (e.g.: Child and Youth Worker, Social Worker, Psychologist, Guidance Counsellor)
• Connect student and family with out of school supports (e.g.: local counselling agencies, grief centres/groups like Rainbows, Big Brothers/Sisters)
• Connect the student and family with available resources from the school library and/or websites
• Develop a plan with the student for location(s) in the school to go for support and/or breaks, possibly away from peers if preferred by grieving student
• Monitor student for signs of depression and/or maladaptive ways of coping (self-harm, substance abuse, eating disorders, etc.) and communicate with parents/guardians and other school support staff
• Directly ask and check in with the student on the supports and/or accommodations that they feel comfortable with on a regular basis as they will/can change over time
• Consider a pre-established check in day/time with the student
Teaching Strategies

Instructional

• Offer copies of notes
• Offer preferred students to partner with for group activities
• Reduce number of expectations
• Advance notice of changes to routine
• Advance notice of topics that could trigger emotions and offer alternatives (e.g.: making of Mother’s Day cards)
• Provide prompts to being and stay on task
• Provide 1:1 check in’s to ensure understanding of instructions
• Provide support to attain necessary resources for a task
• Provide examples/exemplars
• Chunk tasks into parts
• Provide frequent feedback, especially positive

Environmental

• Prearrange a safe location in the school for the student to go if/when feeling overwhelmed with emotions or unable to cope
• Offer preferred seating near supportive peers
• Offer sitting near the door or near the teacher, as the student prefers to increase comfort
• Support healthy eating
• Encourage physical activity

Assessment

• Consult with parents/guardians and support staff on what is reasonable to expect from the student during this time
• Give advance notice for tests/assignments/presentations/projects
• Provide a study sheet/materials to prepare for assessment
• Reduce number of items/quantity to be assessed
• Prompts to return the student’s attention to the task
• Check in’s to ensure understanding of the questions/task
• Breaks during the assessment
• Extended time limits
• Presentations made to just the teacher and/or small group instead of full class
• Defer tests/exams/presentations
• Exempt from test/exams
• Use other methods of assessment that are less stressful to the student (oral discussion, project)
• Consult with the school administration with regards to exams and options to maintain/earn credits
• Be sensitive around holidays like Mother’s/Father’s day and around the anniversary date of the passing of the loved one
• Consider a modified day as a transition for the student back to school



Resources