grief in children

Educating Teachers About Grief


The topic of kids and grief, and the teachers that teach these grieving children, is a subject near and dear to my heart.  After the death of my husband over 5 years ago, we have experienced the need for teachers to be better educated about dealing with grieving kids first-hand.

During 4th grade, my youngest daughter had a hard time in school.  Her first year following her father’s death was difficult, but nowhere near as difficult as the year that followed.  That second year she “hit a wall” in many ways, and the biggest obstacle was her grief.  What made it so hard on my daughter was her teacher’s inability to understand my daughter’s grief, and to recognize it for what it was.

Instead of trying to understand what was going on with my daughter, her teacher (who was fairly new to teaching) “assigned” a diagnosis (one that is far too common these days) – she was convinced my daughter had ADHD.  After attempting to reason with her, and explain the grieving process in children, I was met with her strong rejection of that idea.  So I agreed to take my daughter to our family doctor and a therapist, in order to put the whole ADHD thing to rest.  Both individuals agreed with my assessment – no signs of ADHD were found, and they concurred that the grief was the obvious cause of her distractibility in class.

But that did nothing to take away the pain my daughter had felt for being singled out by her teacher and made to feel stupid.  That’s right – her teacher made my daughter feel like there was something wrong with her, and made her doubt her own abilities.  At a time when my daughter needed all the love and support she could get, she was instead made to feel inferior and slow.

I feel strongly that teachers need to be better educated about grief in children; how to recognize it, and how to help the child deal with those feelings.

Here is a great PDF for teachers about that very thing.

It’s from the New York Life Foundation website, and the site is packed with lots of resources for teachers and parents.

Brookes Publishing has a link on the site to a book called “The Grieving Student – A Teacher’s Guide.”  I am considering buying a copy (or two) for the teachers at my daughter’s school.

It’s not difficult for teacher’s to learn more about grief in children, and the signs and symptoms exhibited by grieving children.  I know that most of our teachers put in a great deal of time and effort to be equipped to help our kids.  I am not trying to add to their pile of work.

But a little time to become educated about grief in children, its signs and symptoms, and how to assist a child through this most difficult of times is time well spent.  Children need a strong support system, and the more caring adults they have to turn to – the better.  🙂