Support for student deaths

Module introduction

“Witnessing how upset and dejected my students were after one of their classmates died was very difficult. I was at a complete loss as to what I should say or do to support them. I felt helpless”.  – Teacher 

The death of a student is an event that has a far-reaching effect on your school community. In some instances, you’ll have time to prepare yourself and your students (for example, when a student has become ill and is expected to die). Other times, you may have little warning because the death is sudden and unexpected. 

This module highlights the importance of good communication and collaboration with the family of a student who is dying or has died. Whenever possible, proactive strategies are recommended, such as developing a school-wide death response plan and incorporating topics of illness, dying, death, and grief into your curriculum.

By completing this module, you will:

  • Explore the importance of acknowledging and supporting your own grief while you also support your grieving students.
  • Discover strategies to prepare for a student’s death when it is expected especially when communicating with students and parents, and proactively initiating discussions with your students.
  • Explore various ways to stay connected with the ill student.
  • Learn ways to create a caring and supportive environment within your classroom and school community when the death has occurred. 
  • Learn specific strategies for informing students when an unexpected death has occurred while being sensitive to different student needs.
  • Learn some specific guidelines for informing and supporting students (including identifying vulnerable students) and staff when death by suicide has occurred.
  • Explore additional points to consider after a student has died such as offering condolences, paying last respects, returning student belongings, replacing the student on teams or clubs and honouring or commemorating the deceased student.
  • Be introduced to proactively integrating death, dying, and grief education into your curriculum.