It feels eerie to walk by the back-to-school section at my local Target. Usually, these aisles would be jam-packed with parents and kids clutching supply lists, rummaging through composition notebooks, and searching for the ever-elusive erasable pen.
With schools in our state only recently deciding to go remote for the fall semester, right now this corner of the store feels like a ghost town. I can’t help but feel sorry for the pencil cases and puppy pocket folders that will never fulfill their destiny.
Any normal year, I’d be cursing the back-to-school section and the inevitable summer’s end that it represents. But this year, I mourn for it as a reminder that people everywhere are experiencing exponential amounts of loss.
We can’t send our kids back to school because people are sick and dying. But this means students who are already impacted by loss are facing the worst with limited access to support and resources.
I sincerely appreciate how hard teachers, school administrators, counselors, and other support staff have worked to bridge this gap. No one can’t prevent our children from experiencing loss, but these supportive adults can help to soften its impact.
A grieving student body
It stands to reason, a higher number of children will be carrying the burden of loss when they return to school this year, whether they are grieving the death of a loved one, or a non-death loss. While at the same time, there are new and significant barriers to receiving the types of support teachers, parents, counselors, and community members are accustomed to providing.
What students in any particular community need in terms of grief support depends on a number of factors. A good place to start, is considering just how have they been impacted by loss? For example, has there been…
- …a loss within the school community?
- …a few children in the community who have experienced personal losses?
- …many children in the community have experienced personal losses?
In general, what we can say is that many grieving families are facing some of the following challenges:
And these challenges create the need for things like:
- resources parents and children can utilize safely and, in many circumstances, remotely
I’m a school counselor or teacher, how do I provide remote grief support to my students?
We can’t tell you is exactly how to provide grief support to those you serve. The approach you take will depend on things like school culture, access to resources, and staffing.
That said, I’m sure by now you’re used to finding creative and flexible solutions and we’re confident in your ability to make a grief support plan that works for your students and school community. One way we can help is by highlighting some resources we think are useful to grieving children.
Whether you are planning to provide grief support in-person, online, or a hybrid of both, we hope the following resources may be helpful as you move forward.
Things to know about grief
Two very important concepts
Childhood bereavement toolkits and dedicated websites
- Dougy Center School and Community Toolkit
- NAGC Toolkit: Responding to Loss and Change
- Coalition to Support Grieving Students
Resources for bereaved children, teens, and parents
- The Golden Sweater: Free PDF download of the book, The Golden Sweater. The Golden Sweater is a book published by the National Alliance for Grieving Children, and it tells the story of a little boy named Kai who learns how to navigate a loss in his family.
- Teenage Grief Sucks: A website written by grieving teens. Teens can read stories written from the perspective of their grieving peers. They can share their own stories as well.
- Sesame Street in Communities: Helping Kids Grieve: It’s Sesame Street excellence – need I say more?
- Slapd: Online community and website supporting teens who’ve lost a parent.
Grief activity videos
Articles for supporting grieving children
- How Children Process Grief and Loss Through Play via Edutopia
- National Association of School Psychologists: Addressing Grief: Tips for Teachers and Administrators
Articles by What’s Your Grief
- Grieving the Death of a Grandparent
- 64 Children’s Books About Death and Grief
- Talking to Kids About Mass Tragedies and Other Events
- Talking to Kids About Death and Grief: 10 Comprehensive Tips
- Deconstruction/Reconstruction: WYG’s Fav New Teen Grief Journal
- Supporting a Grieving Child: The Importance of Modeling
- Childhood Grief: The Influence of Age on Understanding
- Grief and Regrief (aka Growing Up With a Grief Monster)
Sign up for updates on our upcoming virtual 3-hour CE event, Supporting Grieving Children
In September, we will be offering a 3 hour CE training on supporting grieving children, with a special emphasis on providing remote grief support. Also, we’ll provide information on any related webinars, courses, and online events.
We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.