Talking with Students About the Death of a Student or Faculty
- Before speaking with students have as many facts as possible and only share what the family is comfortable with.
- Be aware of your emotions. If you were close to the person who died, someone else may be a better choice to speak with the students, or have someone else on standby that is prepared to step in, if needed.
- Be prepared and aware of students’ emotional responses.
Ask and address questions the students may have. It is OK not to have all the answers. If a question arises and you are unclear how to respond, it’s OK to say, “I don’t know”, or “I don’t have the answer right now, but I will try to get it for you.”
- Have an activity ready for students to express themselves. This could include writing letters or making cards for the family, or writing about how they are feeling.
- It is important not to assume the level of distress a student may experience. While we may expect the death to only significantly impact the students who were closest to the deceased, it may just as significantly impact other students who have experienced their own losses in the past. It is normal for a student that has experienced the loss of a family member/friend to become emotional, even if they didn’t know or have a relationship with the deceased.
- Grief responses may come and go. Students that do not express sadness today may show emotional reactions later on. Continue to monitor students in the days and weeks to come, and address any signs of distress that arise.