By the Coalition to Support Grieving Students

Children’s Grief Awareness Day is held each year on the third Thursday in November. In 2023, it will be marked on November 16. The day reminds us that childhood bereavement is all too common. In the United States, 1 in 12 children will lose a parent or sibling by the time they reach 18 years of age (CBEM). Almost all children—about 90%—will experience the death of a close family member or friend.

2023 has been another challenging year because of the continuing impact of the deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. The nation has experienced excess deaths from other causes as well.

Despite these sobering facts, grieving children are vastly overlooked both in society at large and in schools. Schools have a critical role to play in the grief journeys of children who have lost a loved one. Educators’ and classmates’ responses to a student’s grief can either serve as a source of support and stability during a difficult time, or as an additional hurdle to overcome.

Moreover, grief can have a serious impact on learning for school-age children. Bereavement can lead to decreased academic performance, social withdrawal, and behavioral problems.

Educators have an enormous opportunity to improve outcomes for students by demonstrating an awareness of grief experiences and offering support. Talking with grieving students about their loss helps them cope.

Increasing all students’ awareness of the impact of loss can also help those who are grieving. Peers who don’t know what to say or do may isolate or tease a grieving classmate after a death. This can worsen the isolation grieving students already feel. When educators equip all students with the skills to support a peer, they help create an environment that is beneficial for the entire school.

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