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How schools can support students coping with a bereavement

As many as 92% of young people in the UK will experience what they see as a 'significant' bereavement before the age of 16.(1) 

Up to 70% of schools have a bereaved student on role at any one time.(2)

Children and young people will also experience loss in relation to other aspects of their lives, e.g. parental separation or divorce, death of a pet, or loss experienced through a move to a new area due to changed family circumstances.

The "Five Stages of Grief" (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) (3) can be used as a way of starting to understand what a child or young person may be experiencing.

If a bereaved pupil is unable to express their feelings, they may become withdrawn, insecure and develop low self esteem.

How can schools help?

    • Acknowledge the child or young person's grief. 
    • Support children to talk about their loss and express their feelings, however do not force them to talk but answer questions simply and honestly.

    • Keep up routines– although it can feel like the most unsettling time, keeping a child’s routine as normal as possible can avoid extra distress. e.g. spending time with their friends.

    • Seek advice from specialist organisations such as Child Bereavement UK 

Useful links

(1) - The impact of bereavement and loss on young people Jane Ribbens McCarthy with Julie Jessop
(2) - (Holland 2001) - Job and Frances guidance on helping schools develop their work with bereavement issues
(3) - (see Elizabeth Kubler Ross)

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