How schools handle the death of a student is important, as it affects the way that teenagers deal with the death of a fellow student. Death is never an easy situation for anyone to deal with, particularly when it involves an unexpected death of a teenager.
How schools can help teenagers deal with the death of a fellow student may include the following guidelines:
Announce the death
Family members and close friends should be the first to be notified about the death of a student. Those in authority should then advise students calmly, quietly and carefully. The students may need immediate emotional support and guidance, or want time to spend some quiet time alone.
Making a general announcement of the death of a student is the responsibility of the principal, or person in charge of the school, in his or her absence. A general announcement helps students because there is no question about the fellow student’s death, which some students may have a hard time believing or accepting. Shock and disbelief are common reactions.
Integrity and honesty with respect to answering the questions of students
Initially, only the basic information about the death of a student is necessary. Be aware that students and others tend to react in different ways. They will also have many different kinds of questions. Integrity and honesty, with respect to responding to their questions is important.
A moment of silence
Scheduling a moment of silence at a specific time pays tribute to a student who has passed away, and allows other students the opportunity to focus on that student momentarily, as well as their relationship with him or her.
Individual and group counseling sessions
Grief counselors can often help students by conducting individual or group counseling sessions. These may or may not include family members, depending upon their desires, the situation or circumstances of the student’s death. Dealing with grief stricken students is the responsibility of principals, teachers, other more mature students, as well as student advisers. Parents may need to become actively involved.
Stages of grief
Students can go through various stages of grief when a fellow student dies which is a normal reaction to death. Some students may experience bouts of extreme sadness, regret or depression. They may or may not be able to express their grief appropriately. Different types of behavior may include unexpected outbursts of tears, withdrawal from others or open expressions of anger including violence. Having to cope with unexpected loss of a fellow student is never easy.
Forming support groups can prove instrumental in helping large numbers of students to deal with the death of a fellow student. An attitude of caring, concern and compassion is important for the leaders of support group sessions. Active participation by all students should be encouraged.
Student memorial service
Conducting a student memorial service in a school setting, or a nearly church, can prove beneficial to students dealing with the death of a fellow student. It may be possible or advisable to encourage student participation, so that they are actively engaged in doing something positive and constructive. Different expressions of music or art can be excellent ways to acknowledge the death of a fellow student.
Celebration of life of a student who has died
There may be ways to celebrate the life of a student who has died, including high school concerts or other kinds of projects, like annual fundraisers for specific causes including illnesses or social disorders like substance or alcohol abuse. Paying online social media tributes or starting long-term memorial projects to raise funds for research and awareness could prove to help others in the future.
Many schools encourage specific memorial projects on an annual basis, in order to help students who have suffered the loss of a fellow student. This will help students to realize that their live are important. Students often find comfort knowing a fellow student who has passed away, will be remembered.