Meeting the needs of students grieving the death of a loved one.
A Resource Guide for School Counselors & Other Professionals
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
(From the Author
Each year thousands of school students experience the death of someone they love. When a parent, sibling, friend or relative dies, children and adolescents feel the overwhelming loss of someone who helped shape their lives. And these feelings about the death become a part of their lives forever. The purpose of this manual is to serve as a resource for school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, teachers, and school administrators. It is a guide that aims to educate school professionals and enable them to deal more effectively with the grief which students suffer. School professionals and students can create a healthy learning environment by acknowledging the special needs if the grieving student. Primary is the intricate relationship between loss issues and a student’s ability to function in and out of the classroom.
Grief-The reaction to loss. Grief reactions may be felt in response to physical losses (i.e. death) or symbolic losses (i.e. divorce). Each type of loss represents something being taken away. Grief may be experienced as a physical, mental, emotional, or social reaction.
Bereavement-The state of having suffered a significant loss. It is the period after which grief is experienced and mourning occurs. It is considered the private expression of grief.
Mourning- The process by which people adapt to a loss. Mourning is influenced by cultural customs, rituals, and society's rules for coping with loss. It is considered the public expression of grief.
(Five Common Myths
It is easier to believe that children and adolescents are not affected by grief. Thus myths are often utilized to protect children and adolescents. However, these myths are barriers to the grieving process.
Myth: The goal of helping bereaved children is to "Get them over grief and mourning"
Children and adults are often told that they "should be over is by now.” Adults who believe this myth deny children the opportunity to work through their grief.
Myth: Children are better off if they don't attend funerals
Not allowing children to attend funerals creates an environment of denial that does not allow them to actively participate in the grieving process. The funeral provides a structure for the child to see how people comfort each other openly, mourn a loved one, and honor his/her life. Children learn the ways we say goodbye to the remains of the person who died, and how we show respect for the deceased.
Myth: It is better to shield children from loss, as they are too young to understand.
It is better to provide children and adolescents with support as they experience loss. Excluding them from this experience will increase fears and feelings of helplessness.
Myth: Children are not affected by the loss of a loved one.
Children, like adults, are affected by loss. However, children and adolescents show their feelings differently than adults. Children and adolescents often turn their feelings inward.
Myth: Grief must be dealt with immediately after the loss occurs.
Grief work can take weeks, months, or years to get through. Children and adolescents often revisit their grief at different points in their development.
( Children and Grief
People cope with the loss of a loved one in many ways. For some, the experience may lead to personal growth, even though it is a difficult and trying time. It is sometimes difficult for adults to imagine that children can experience the range and intensity of emotions that adults feel at times of loss. This may be because children present their...