Emily Columpsi

"The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery" -Mark Van Doren

Coping With Grief

Last night, I was fortunate enough to take part in a workshop conducted by Sylvia Keall, on Helping Students Cope with Grief. These professional development opportunities are very important for (pre-service) teachers because you never know when something will happen that requires you to be there for your students. It is a known “fact that each year children from every school will be faced with a death of a loved one, and will be forced to cope with loss while continuing their studies.” As a result, it is important for teachers to take into account that there is no right and wrong way to grieve, and each child will show/express their grief differently depending on the context of the situation and their development level. That being said, it is essential that we as teachers, as stated last night by Sylvia, make ourselves available.

Photo Credit: OUCHcharley via Compfight cc


As part of her presentation, Sylvia provided guidelines for helping students with grief. Being available, a good observer, a good listener, patient and honest are all ways in which we as teachers can help our students in difficult times in their lives. We can’t force the student to talk; however, we can be patient and wait for the student to come to us. We need to give grieving students “the opportunity to tell us what happened and how they feel” about the situation on their own time. As well, when this time comes it is essential that we “don’t distort the truth or lie to the child about tragedy.” Knowing the truth will help children begin to heal because they have complete understanding of events.

It is a natural response for teachers to feel a great deal of concern for their students, since children are with teachers seven or more hours each day. That being said, school isn’t just a place for learning. It becomes a home away from home, a place in which students share their lives with other classmates and teachers. This enables me to bring up another important point stated last night, “Remember that you can be the one to make school a safe, structured place to grieve.” Ultimately, don’t underestimate your importance.

Last night was very enlightening. I personally was very thankful for this workshop because yes, dealing with death is difficult, but inevitable part of being a teacher. Therefore, it is important that we acknowledge our role as helpers and teachers who can assist students in healthy coping skills.

Grieving is a process. Therefore, make sure you are patient and give your students the time and encouragement they need.

Check out this website on How to: Help Your Students Deal with Grief and Loss. The ideas are very similar to the ones presented last night. I encourage you to take a look.



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