While childhood mortality is now much lower than it has been previously, some children will still need to adjust to the loss of a classmate due to a terminal illness. As a school administrator, here are some ways to help the school to adjust to their loss in a positive way.
Ensure the teachers have had adequate counselling and training
The teachers are likely to also be affected by the loss of their young student. The children will react to the emotions of the adults around them, and will be particularly worried if the teachers seem to be extremely sad or unable to express their emotions in an appropriate and controlled manner. Ensure that your staff have access to appropriate counselling, and encourage anyone who seems to be struggling with their grief to use the services.
The teachers may have to deal with very specific questions from the students around what death means, the logistics of death and funerals, and questions on where the soul goes. Having some training on age appropriate ways to answer these questions can help the children to feel reassured and clear about the logistics around death.
Run a memorial service
A memorial service, facilitated by a counsellor or someone like Helen N. Norman, can give everyone an opportunity to share memories of their friend and openly explore their emotions with their peers. Many parents struggle to discuss emotions at home, if they come from a background of a "stiffer upper lip". Having an open environment at school can help the children to explore their emotions in an open environment and express any feelings they need to release.
Consider erecting a permanent memorial, such as a tree or bench to recognise the child that has passed away.
Run private counselling sessions
For some children the death of their classmate may strike more deeply, and they may benefit with some private counselling sessions where they can share dark or private thoughts. Do not try and pre-empt which children will require the extra sessions, as some close friends of the deceased child may adjust quickly where some children who weren't as close may be more deeply affected. Children have different backgrounds and emotional histories, which leads to them adjust and adapting differently to events in their life.
By facilitating the mourning process within the school you can help the school community to process the huge loss of their friend and peer. Counselling is an invaluable resource in this distressing time for staff and students alike.Share
30 June 2015
My name is Janet Tuck. I am so lucky to be established in my dream job as a life coach. My job mostly involves listening to people and helping them find their own solutions. Marriage troubles, career stagnation, personal identity issues and grief are all problems which can benefit from professional counselling. Unfortunately, many people just won’t admit that they need the help. As a life coach, it isn’t my job to give direct advice. After completing a course with me, some clients decide to undertake further counselling with a specialist. Months later, they return to see me with a whole different attitude to life. I started this journal to let people know about the importance of seeking help, the types of counselling available and the incredible long-term benefits. May you find your true path in life and be happy in all that you do.