Chapter 1: Recognizing student grief

Supporting students with their grief

What the grief expert says
Lysa Toye, social worker, psychotherapist, talks about ways to support a grieving student.(3:22)Video transcript

“I am new at teaching and this experience was new to me. I was so worried about saying the wrong thing that would upset him anymore that he was already.”  - Teacher

In looking for ways to support your student, explore what grief is like for them; how to best communicate information about death and grief; and provide a variety of tools for them to express their grief. 

Allow plenty of time to be with the student to gain a better understanding of their perspective. Invite their questions. This may take longer than you anticipate. Your student may need repeated explanations, or they may have emotions that are frustrating and difficult for them to understand. 

Conversation Prompts
Click on each item to view the say and avoid prompt.


“I’ve been thinking of you and your family”

“They are in a better place”

Say Avoid

“I’m wondering if you want to talk about…”

“I know how you feel.”



“Is there anything I can do to help support you at school such as...”

“You'll get over it”

Say Avoid

“You are always welcome to ask me any questions or concerns you have.”

“At least...”

If the relationship with the person who died was a close one, it may be helpful to put together some reminders, such as a memory box, tactile objects, or a story/picture board. You and your student can use such reminders to refer to the person’s life and the fact that they are no longer physically present.