Bereavement Counseling in the SchoolSetting
by Luciano Sabatini, Ph.D.
Challenges FacingNewlyBereaved Students
Living in a deathphobicsocietyDealing with death illiterate adultsBeing sheltered from the truthLack of life experience in dealing with loss
Challenges Facing Counselors
Children & adolescents grieve differently than adultsCultural differences in dealing with griefParental resistance especially in blended familiesAdolescent need to fit in, not feel differentUniqueness of grief, no template for grief
Immediate Interventions: Assisting a GrievingStudent
How do you prepare for a student’s return to school?
Planning for a Student’sReturn
Using the child study team, develop a plan which includes:Who will provide counseling for the student?Who should know about the loss?What accommodations should be made to school work?What assistance do teachers and other staff need?What communication is needed with the home?Who will monitor student progress?
Developing Sound Practicesand Procedures
Articulation within school and between schools on student’s lossNotifying students when the death has occurred while in schoolRemembering the anniversariesReview practices that may be antiquated
Long Term Interventions: Support Groups
Does your school use support groups to assist bereaved students?What has been your experience with using such groups?
Preliminary Steps to Starting a Group
Notifying administration & getting supportIdentifying studentsDeciding on facilitatorsSelecting a site for the group
Solving the Logistics for a Group
Determining when to start, day of the week, and meeting patternNotifying teachersCommunicating with studentsInterviewing students for the groupObtaining parental permission
The First Meeting of theSupportGroup
Introducing the facilitatorsStudent introductionsNature of a support groupEstablishing ground rulesIce-breakersFollow-up with students who did not attend
Picture of the deceased family memberReview of weekIce- breakersHoliday concernsIntroduce concept of empowerment
After the Holidays
What did they learn that could help for next yearReview of the weekStudent authored Ice breakersEmpowerment activities“ teaching others how to help the bereaved”
Terminating the Group
When to endLast MeetingSetting goals for the future—reunion activityFeedback for future groups
Death of a Student
Has your school ever experienced this?What was the school’s response?
Assembling a crisis teamIdentifying needs of students, staff, parents & communityDeveloping a plan to meet these needsImplementing the planDaily meetings to assess plan and make changes where needed
Components of the Plan
Providing assistance to facultyCommunicating tragic newsProviding counseling & safe havens for studentsIdentifying and reaching out to students most impacted by the lossKeeping the community organizations informedProviding assistance during wake & funeralEvening parent meeting
Do’s and Don’ts
Do respect individual differences in grief.Do maintain a routine and structure with allowancesDo allow for activities to memorialize the deceasedDon’t have large assemblies to discuss tragic newsDon’t force counseling on grieving students
If you have questions or need additional information
Call: 516-799-5873Email:firstname.lastname@example.orgWebsite: www.empoweringthebereaved.com