Understanding Grief in Schools

Sadly, loss is common in the lives of both children and young people, and this often includes the loss of someone very close. About 5% will face the death of a parent by age 16 and almost all children will experience the death of an important person in their lives before they reach adulthood.

If you work in a school, it's likely you work with grieving children every day, even if you don't see any children who appear to be grieving.

Children and young people spend a significant amount of time in school and it is important that this can be a supportive environment for bereaved children.

It can be especially difficult if the school experiences bereavement through the death of a pupil or teacher.

A child’s understanding of death is very different from that of an adult and depends on the age and stage of understanding of the child. As the child grows and matures, their earlier ways of thinking about death will change.

It is essential for adults around the child to have a sense of how children understand death at different ages so that when the time comes to talk about death, whether of a pet or a family member or friend, adults can respond in a manner appropriate to the child’s developmental age.

For some children and young people, bear in mind that their chronological development may be different to their emotional development and that they may be expressing grief at a much younger age than their chronological age. This is especially so in children and young people with attachment difficulties caused by earlier life complications.

Cruse Scotland can help you to support bereavement in your school. If you would like to know more please contact us