Bereavement in schools

As a teacher or member of staff within a school community it is inevitable that you will work with children affected by death in one way or another.  The immediacy and enormity of these experiences may vary, but in each situation, you have a genuine chance to positively affect a young life.

Children are often referred to as the ‘forgotten mourners’ because adults use euphemisms to explain death and think children are adaptable and will soon ‘get over it’ or ‘are too young to understand’ or ‘too young to go to the funeral’.

It is easy to exclude a young person from one of their major life events with all the good intentions of wanting to protect them from the pain of bereavement.  Experience has shown that young people can work through their grief if they are able to talk about their bereavement, ask questions, express their feelings and have their fears and concerns validated.

‘How can I learn to read when my head is so full of Daddy?!’  This is how one seven year old boy explained his lack of concentration to his teacher following the sudden death of his father.  Bereaved children can react in many different ways.  The normally placid child who becomes aggressive and lashes out at others is easy to identify, but experience has shown that the child who is apparently unaffected by death, completes their work on time and shows themselves to be a ‘model pupil’ and “obviously over her mother’s death” could be finding the bereavement equally difficult to cope with.  By adopting the strategy of being exceptionally well behaved, the child could be thinking that “if I can be good, maybe mummy will come back and it will all be better”.

Research has shown that bereaved children tend to suffer more from ailments such as tummy ache, feeling sick or headaches than children who are not bereaved.  It is also a fact that many suffer from a lack of concentration, tiredness, worry about surviving family members and simply have ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’.  Therefore, it could be argued that bereaved children could have ‘special educational needs’ and as such deserve support to enable them to understand and cope with their bereavement and thus allow them to continue their education in a purposeful way.  To provide the opportunity to talk about the dead person, express their feelings and have their major life-event recognised may be all that schools have to do to allow this process to happen.

In conjunction with Nelson’s Journey, Rosedale Training have developed a range of training courses aimed at empowering professionals to support bereaved children at school.  Rosedale Training can deliver these courses with the help of Nelson’s Journey in Norfolk and Nature and Nurture Therapeutic Services in Suffolk.

There is a choice of courses, ranging from a twilight session to a full day (and even whole school PD day) training.

Find out more about our Supporting Bereaved Children training for schools.