Connecting with the school after the death
When a child dies, their peers, school staff and community members are deeply affected. There are many choices to make about when and how to tell different people.
The school community might want to share their grief, memories and do something to honour your child. It can be helpful to have a plan in place ahead of time. Here are some things to think about:
How will staff members be informed when a child dies?
You might wish to share information about the death yourself, whether by phone, email, or in person, with one or more staff members. You could ask a member of your healthcare team to help or to do this for you. You could ask a “point person,” like a friend, teacher, or principal to share the news with others.
How will students be informed when a child dies?
This situation can be handled in different ways, depending on your child’s age, how long they attended the school, and other factors. Here are some suggestions:
- Offer the news in-person to the whole class, or to a number of classes at once. That way children know that they all have the same information. Invite them to ask questions, clarify misconceptions, and share their feelings in a supportive environment.
- Have a school social worker, guidance counsellor or member of the child’s health care team present when the teacher or principal tells students about the death. One person can watch to see if any children need extra support, while the other focuses on sharing information or answering questions.
How will information be shared with community members?
Your child’s school may send a letter or email to other parents. School staff, your child’s classmates and their family members might wish to know about plans, and whether or not they are welcome to attend.
Talk to the principal about how much information you would like them to share about the death and any arrangements for a funeral or memorial.
There are different ways that individual classes or whole schools can remember and honour your child and support your family and one another in their grief. You may choose to be involved in these special activities or not. Here are some examples:
- Class activities:
- Decorate the child’s desk with artwork, photos, written messages, handprints.
- Make cards for the family.
- Choose a time to eat the child’s favourite foods, wear their favourite colour, or do some of their favourite activities.
- School assemblies led by school staff, to talk about the child, about grief, and about ways of supporting one another.
- Fundraisers to support a cause in honour of the child.
- Memorials to honour the child such as planting a tree or garden, or installing a bench or playground equipment.
If a child dies during the summer or a school break, it’s more complicated to share information with staff, students and their families. In this case it can be very helpful to share information soon after these breaks to make sure that everyone has the same information and opportunities to ask questions and share their feelings and memories.