3 Resources for Helping Students Handle Grief


Helping students handle grief and trauma is one of the many responsibilities that teachers posses. Classroom teachers, in particular, can provide a sense of normalcy and routine, as well as a comforting presence for their students.

But while most schools have staff (guidance counselors, social workers, or adjustment counselors) who have been trained in grief counseling, classroom teachers are not typically trained and have to learn on the job as their students handle difficult situations.

Fortunately, many resources exist that can help teachers feel more comfortable in helping their students deal with grief and trauma. The following are helpful in determining best practices for responding to situations that may involve grieving students:

1. Coalition to Support Grieving Students

I came across this resource a few years ago while looking for ways to discuss situations that had occurred with my own students. The Coalition to Support Grieving Students provides videos and downloadable modules for school personnel, with grief support information sorted into multiple categories: Conversation and Support, Developmental & Cultural Considerations, Practical Considerations, Reactions and Triggers, Professional Preparation & Self-Care, and Crises & Special Circumstances. This resource is valuable to anyone working with students.

2. National Center for School Crisis & Bereavement

Based out of the University of Southern California School of Social Work, the NCSCB provides an abundance of materials that are designed to, “help professionals in school-based settings plan for and respond to various crises, loss, and grief.” Their website contains guidelines for responding to various situations relating to loss and grief, as well as teacher training modules. Educators can also use the site’s sample letter templates in the event of notifying parents, students, and staff about the death of a student or teacher.

3. The National Association of School Psychologists

The NASP website includes resources like a list of books that may help students understand their grief in a way that is developmentally appropriate for their age, and considerations for schools that build memorials. The information on the NASP website is consolidated from other resources, which are referenced online so as to provide teachers and administrators with more information on the topic of grief and trauma.

A community’s response to situations that cause student grief will depend on cultural and contextual factors, and the development age of the students affected. While some of these situations can be planned for, the possibility of some cannot be fathomed. It is my hope that the resources provided above can help teachers and administrators implement protocols and routines to assist their students before such situations may occur.