Guidelines on responding to bereavement for school staff

Class teachers and other adults who have a significant relationship with the children need to acknowledge the situation when the children arrive, but this needs to be done gradually during the day so they don’t feel overwhelmed. It can be helpful to say something like “I’m really sorry to hear about your mum dying, that must be really hard for you. You can talk to me if you want to and if you don’t want to that’s fine.

Identify somewhere and ideally someone who can go with them if they need to have some time out of class and give lots of permission for them to have this if and when they need to.

They will probably be in the stage of numbness, disbelief and denial and may not yet fully understand or have absorbed what has happened, so may not want or be able to talk about it yet. They may appear to be as they were before the bereavement, and this is a very normal stage of the grieving process.

When children experience a bereavement they often do something called “puddle jumping” where they are upset one minute and fine the next. For example, crying and then laughing or asking if they can play out. This is an important part of them being able to process what has happened in their own time and at their own pace.

It will really help them to feel safe and secure at school if there can be as much consistency as possible and things carry on an normal, ensuring that you talk to them about any changes that are happening, particularly significant staff being absent for any reason.

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