Children’s Grief Awareness Day is held each year on the third Thursday in November. In 2022, it will be marked on November 17. The day reminds us that childhood bereavement is all too common. In the United States, one in 13 children will lose a parent or sibling by the time they reach 18 years of age (CBEM). Almost all children--about 90 percent--will experience the death of a close family member or friend.
2022 has been another challenging year because of the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many children have lost loved ones from COVID-19. 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.
Sample School Activities for Grief Awareness Day/Month
After a Loved One Dies: How Children Grieve and How Parents and Other Adults Can Support Them
This booklet explains how children grieve and the ways parents and other caring adults can help them understand death better.
Supporting Your Child Brochure
This brochure provides advice to parents and caregivers on supporting children who are grieving.
Supporting Your Students Brochure
Developed by the Coalition to Support Grieving Students, this pamphlet offers advice to educators and school personnel on how to support grieving students and how classmates can help.
Other materials are available at the New York Life bereavement support resource site.
The Coalition to Support Grieving Students created a free school practitioner-oriented website, https://grievingstudents.org, with more than 20 video training modules on topics ranging from how to talk with grieving students to responding to a school crisis event. Endorsed by over 125 professional organizations and free to download, the website provides module summaries, handouts, reference materials, and guidance documents that provide step-by-step practical advice. Free resources for parents and other caring adults are also available.Printable version of this resource.