The Grieving Student: A Teacher's Guide

Authors: David Schonfeld MD, Marcia Quackenbush MS, MFT, CHES; Foreword Author: MaryEllen Salamone

Format: Paperback, 208 pages, 6.0 x 9.0
ISBN: 9781598571165
Price: $34.95

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Death and grief will affect the lives of almost all children at some point, often leading to struggles with academic performance, social relationships, and behavior. Teachers can be a critical lifeline for a grieving child—and now they have a practical guidebook to help them provide sensitive support to students of all ages.

Author David Schonfeld is the national go-to expert on childhood bereavement and school crisis —a veteran consultant to school crisis teams, he has trained thousands of professionals in the wake of events such as 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina. Partnering with family therapist Marcia Quackenbush, he guides teachers through a child's experience of grief and loss, illuminates the classroom issues that grieving may trigger, and empowers teachers to undertake the rewarding job of reaching and helping their students. Educators will get the real-world tips, strategies, and insights they need to

  • explain the major concepts of death in age-appropriate ways
  • respond constructively to children's common feelings and behaviors after a death
  • initiate and maintain positive, helpful communication
  • learn what to say and what not to say when a child or family is grieving
  • use simple commemorative activities at school to help students cope with their feelings
  • address children's responses to different causes of death, including suicide, illness, and violence
  • help a child who is "stuck" in a difficult phase of grief
  • provide ongoing assistance when triggers of grief renew a child's sense of loss
  • notify and support students after a death that affects the whole school community

Throughout the book, powerful vignettes and examples give teachers a vivid inside look at what their students may be feeling and how an educator's words and actions can make a difference. And because teachers may struggle with their own emotions as they help their students, the book shows them how to manage a wide range of feelings, from discomfort with discussing death to personal identification with the child's loss.

With this how-to guide to one of the most delicate issues an educator will encounter, teachers will give students the support they need to cope with grief and work their way back to full participation in academic and social life.


Review by: Barbara Braaten, Sheldon Braaten, & Melissa Knoll, Behavioral Institute for Children and Adolescents
"A valuable contribution to the field. Finally, there is a book that describes grief as a process rather than an event. . . . It should be required in every teacher prep institution and in schools across the country."
Review by: Vincent Giordano, Former Executive Director of the Division of Student Support Services, New York City Department of Education
"If a resource guide like this were available after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, I would have sent a copy to each of New York City&#39s 1000 schools and structured staff development efforts around its main themes."
Review by: Robin H. Gurwitch, Professor, Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Program Coordinator, National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, Cincinnati, Ohio
"A must-read for any teacher! This unique resource tackles a challenging topic and provides strategies for helping students cope and successfully return to the classroom."
Review by: Thomas Demaria, Director, Psychological Services Center and 9/11 Family Center, Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, Long Island University
"Provides a window into the personal experience of the bereaved child and offers practical and easy to follow strategies that teachers and schools can immediately utilize."
Review by: Jonathan Cohen, President, Center for Social and Emotional Education; Co-chair, National School Climate Council
"Death is a part of life in K-12 schools. This wise book promotes understanding and provides practical guidelines that will support educators in making this a time of learning and healing for students and staff."
Review by: Donna Shuurman, Executive Director, The Dougy Center for Grieving Children & Families, Portland, Oregon
"If only this book could be required reading for all teacher training programs! This is a thorough, practical, and insightful guide for teachers new and seasoned, who find themselves unsure of what to do when death affects a student or students."
Review by: Ralph E. (Gene) Cash, Florida Licensed Psychologist; Associate Professor, Center for Psychological Studies, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
All students experience some sort of loss such as death or illness, but not all teachers and other educators know how to help them and their families through their grief. This book is an invaluable guide through the process and should be on every teacher's desk and in every school library.
Review by: Therese A. Rando, Clinical Director, The Institute for the Study and Treatment of Loss, Warwick, Rhode Island; Author, Treatment of Complicated Mourning
"Specific, step-by-step guidance for facilitating healthy grief, avoiding development of problems, and treating grief that is complicated . . . If there were just one book I would recommend to the teachers of my children, this absolutely would be it."
Review by: Marleen Wong, Assistant Dean and Clinical Professor, Director of Field Education, School of Social Work, University of Southern California
Will serve as a long-standing resource for educators who confront the confounding experience of children&#39s grief. Reassuring guidance is combined with suggestions that can ease a child's pain and help return a child to learning in the classroom.
Review by: Susan Craig, AGH Associates, Inc., Hampton, New Hampshire
"The authors once again establish the important role teachers play in helping students find meaning in their lives . . . each suggested strategy can be used to help students acquire the cognitive skills and emotional regulation required to grapple with life&#39s big questions."
Review by: Duane Isava, Psychology Associate, Arundel Psychological Associates
"An indispensable and easy to read resource . . . written with compassion for the student and their families, as well as sensitivity to the very nature of grief and bereavement."

Table of Contents

About the Authors

Foreword - MaryEllen Salamone



Introduction: Yes, This Matters

  1. Why Schools and Teachers? Isn't This Someone Else's Job?

  2. How Children Understand Death

  3. When a Death Occurs in a Child's Life

  4. Support for Grieving Children: What to Do

  5. Communication: Ways to Make Contact and Keep It Going

  6. Working with Families

  7. Special Concerns for Bereaved Children

  8. Providing Support over Time

  9. When an Entire School Is Affected

  10. Seriously Ill Students: When Death Is a Concern

  11. Memorialization and Commemoration

  12. Taking Care of Yourself

Afterword: Support for the Present and the Future


Study Guide


Reader's guide included—perfect for teacher study groups!

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