Returning to School
School can offer support and security for children and young people when someone special to them has died.
The family of the bereaved pupil may contact school directly soon after someone has died or one of the school staff could make the first contact to let the family know that they are being thought about. Information about what has happened does need to be given to the staff who need to know.
Although it can be hard for pupils to feel like facing school again, it can offer a sense of security, routine and normality at a time when these things feel lost. At a time when something out of control has happened it is important to give the child or young person a sense of control about returning to school. The pupil can be given the choice about letting peers know why they have been absent and the facts about what has happened. The pupil may choose to do this in person, together with a trusted teacher or for the teacher to do it before they return. It may also be important that peers get a clear, factual account of the situation particularly if the death has been publicised or is known about in the wider community as this could leave the story open to rumours.
If the class is informed of the pupil’s absence you could encourage them to write letters or make cards to send home. If the pupil has some time off you can keep them informed about what is happening in school.
Sometimes walking in the doors for the first time can be scary so the child or young person could identify one or two friends to meet them and walk in together or maybe not come back full time immediately.
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Children we help
Beth aged 14 years came to a group programme after her dad had died suddenly and unexpectedly. She was having difficulty concentrating at school and felt that it was hard for others to understand how she was feeling. Her relationship with her dad hadn't always been easy and she was struggling with her guilt. At the group she met other young people who had experienced the death of someone significant to them. They shared their coping strategies with Beth. She began to realise that others had a similar mix of feelings as well as good and not so good memories. She felt less alone in her grief and found a new supportive network of friends.