Coping with the death of a pupil

There is no right way to respond to the death of a pupil. Each teacher will have his or her own ideas. However you might consider these possibilities:

1. Speak about the death in the school assembly, just telling children in a simple and straightforward manner that the pupil has died. Ask for a few moments of silence so that each can recall their own memories. Say a few words of prayer, expressing thanks for the life of the pupil and for the privilege of having known him or her. Ask that he or she may now be at peace.

2. Invite the children to make suggestions as to how they would like to mark the loss. They might wish to send a card to the pupil's parents. They might wish to make a collection for a charity in memory of the pupil. They might wish to have something permanent at the school as a memorial. This could be anything from a library book to a seat in the school grounds - remember that funds have to be raised to pay for it.

Heath View Community Primary School created a memorial garden.

3. Foster positive responses to death. Encourage children to talk about what they remember of the person and especially what they liked about him or her. Perhaps they could create a Memories Book, with individuals writing their personal recollections.

4. Particular friends of the dead child may well need individual care and counselling. A sensitive teacher will be aware when a child wants to talk about the loss and will find a time and place to listen quietly and with respect. If there has been a tragic or horrific death, it may be that the help of trained bereavement counsellors is necessary.

5. You might consider inviting children to light a candle (perhaps a tea-light) and placing it in front of a photograph of the dead person. Some people find this a way of expressing grief when words are difficult or inadequate. The ritual can be consoling.

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