Chapter 2: Supporting students coping with Covid-19 grief

Supporting students who have experienced a death during Covid-19

“My grandfather died a couple months ago. I didn’t really want to talk about it but it did help to know a couple of other kids in my class also lost someone close during COVID-19. At least I know I’m not alone.”  - Student

male teenager sitting in class with maskFor students who have experienced a death during the pandemic (COVID-related or otherwise), their grief has likely happened in relative isolation without the usual supportive grieving practices. Public health restrictions have limited the travel, gatherings, and rituals which may have impacted families’ grief experiences. Students may not have had access to their peers and other members of their support network during this difficult time. Below are some strategies you can use to support students who have experienced a death during COVID-19. 

Click on each of the tabs below for more information about each one.

Connect with the family

If you know ahead of time that a student has experienced a death, contact the family. Take this time to understand how their cultural and faith-based practices impact the way they grieve and understand death. Explore with the family if they feel that COVID- 19 created barriers to a healthy grieving process for their kids (not having a funeral, child feeling responsible, are examples).

Check in one-on-one

Let your student know that you are aware that they have experienced a death. Use the name of the person who died (if you know it) and invite them to share what they are comfortable sharing. Respect their choice not to talk about it.  

Share with the class (if student wants to)

For some students, not having their classmates know about the death will make school a scary place to feel their grief. Check with them and if they want to share with the class or have you share with the class. If they ask you to share, confirm with the student what they do and don't want you to share. Let them share (or communicate for them) that they have experienced a loss. Help your student to determine how they might like their classmates to support them.  If the student does not want to share any information about the death with their class, let them know that's okay too. 

Let them know you are there

Communicate that they can come to you with thoughts and questions or if things just feel extra hard one day. You don't have to know all the answers (it's okay to say 'I don't know'), but by giving them a space to explore these things, you are setting them up to understand  and cope with their grief.

Click on each item on the left for more detail

See also:Module 2 – Strategies for supporting grieving students, Chapter 3: When a family member has died, Strategies for working with the student