Chapter 1: Communication strategies

Communication strategies

What the parent says
Jenny talks how the school stayed connected to their family through long absences. (3:22)Video transcript
Jenny talks about Mae's teachers understanding that Mae needed time away from school to be with her sister.(3:22)Video transcript
Jenny talks about the care that the teachers showed Mae during Phoebe's illness.(3:22)Video transcript

“I felt unable to keep up with anything except my own day-to-day tasks around my husband’s illness and death. I very much appreciated how the teacher stayed in touch with me. I did not have the strength or energy to coordinate or reach out to the school”.  – Parent

Below are nine tips for speaking with a grieving person. 

Click on the arrows to view each tip.



Words to use and words to avoid  

Click on the switch buttons for examples of what to say and examples of what to avoid.


“I was sad to hear that your dad died”.

“I know how you feel” (even if you have experienced a similar death).

Say Avoid

“I have a few memories of your brother. Would you like to hear them?” (Even if the student doesn’t want to hear them right now, let them know that if this ever changes, you’d be happy to share them later.)

Any statement that starts with “At least…” – e.g.:

“At least you have other siblings…”

“At least she didn’t suffer…”

“At least her suffering is over…”


“I’ve been thinking of you and your family a lot since ________ ‘s death”. 

“This will make you stronger”.

Say Avoid

“If you’d ever like to talk about your mom or what you are going through, you’re welcome to come to me. And it’s completely okay if you’d prefer not to talk about it as well”.

Any statements that suggest the student needs to “move on” or “get over it”. Any statements that suggest the student has grieved long enough.