Assisting Young People Through Grief

Coaching young people in schools means that occasionally I work with students that are experiencing grief. Last week at the Mental Health in Education Conference, Julia Samuel, author of ‘Grief Works’ stated that 1 in 9 children suffer grief from the death of a significant person in their life.  I had not realised just how many young people are affected.

In my experience of coaching young people through grief I have had success from:

  • Building trust
  • Giving them space so that they can release their emotions
  • Allowing them to express their grief in their own way
  • Offering them the opportunity to talk about what is worrying them
  • Listening actively to what they have to say
  • Talking about the real situation rather than protecting them from it
  • Giving them information to enable them to understand what is happening to them so that they can grieve
  • Taking them out of their classroom for a ‘walk and talk’ to change the environment
  • Doing something else with them like playing a game
  • Asking them how they want to be treated so that they have some choice and control in their life

Young people often tell me that they feel the truth and full facts are kept from them because adults feel they need to be protected. This can add to their confusion and frustration and does not help with their grieving process. In a lot of cases they tell me they feel isolated and disconnected.

Giving young people the choice of who they want around them to support them through grief is also very important. If there is no rapport or relationship of trust then young people will find it very difficult to open up and release the pain they are feeling inside.

Teachers can also play a big part in assisting young people in school who are grieving. Offering them space, time-outs, support, kindness and understanding can make a huge difference. Having a signal system to let teachers know they are struggling has certainly helped one of my students cope with being in the classroom. Just knowing that if things get too much they can go out without the rest of the class knowing they are struggling has made life easier and more manageable.

School pastoral teams can also help by recording key dates like anniversaries and birthdays to build school awareness regarding changes in a students behaviour around these sensitive times and to incorporate flexibility around work deadlines.

Family can also make a difference by talking about how grief is affecting them as they could be experiencing similar emotions. Discussing the change in the dynamics of a family when a key member disappears is a crucial part of the grieving process which can then lead to acceptance and loss of that person. Discussing how and what needs to change will assist in the restoration of the family’s natural equilibrium.

The main thing is that young people who are grieving need to feel connected with family, friends and school. Being able to let the pain out means they can then build the strength and resilience they need to carry on with their own life.

If you know of a person that is suffering from grief and would benefit from coaching then please contact me.