When Bereavement Needs to Be Considered

In the tragic situation when a student’s cancer is terminal, teachers can help assure classmates are supported. An expert (perhaps accessed from a local hospice or children’s hospital) or a campus professional (counselor or school psychologist) should generally be consulted. When working with such a professional, one thing teachers might do is to prepare their students for the loss by providing a chance to say goodbye (via telephone, card, or email). Bereavement experts recommend that students are offered emotional support from peers, teachers, and family, as well as time to grieve. Students who have lost a classmate risk a number of transient symptoms like shock, numbness, sadness, survival guilt, suicide ideation, drug abuse, and school problems.  Research suggests that some grieving students experience lingering physical and psychiatric problems as well. Therefore, each student’s situation is to be taken seriously (see NASP for more information on bereavement in schools).