Death, Bereavement and Grief: The role of the teacher in supporting a child experiencing the death of a parent

This paper is the result of an undergraduate research project which was later written up in collaboration between the student and their supervisor and accepted for publication.

The research aimed to explore the teacher’s role in supporting a child bereaved of a parent in order to inform future educational practice to optimise outcomes for this potentially vulnerable group of learners.  The study utilised interviews with teachers who had supported a bereaved child as a basis for understanding the nature of support that could be provided and any opportunities/ barriers that may be present.  The themes from these interviews were then used to develop a questionnaire which was completed by adults who reflected on their experience of a parental death whilst in school.

Responses from bereaved individuals offer guidance on how school staff might offer support and understanding in these circumstances. Overall, the study suggests that teachers have a significant role in the child’s management of their grief. Despite a lack of initial teacher training in the area of loss, often their small, dynamic forms of support, such as listening and taking a genuine interest in the child, along with supportive proactive school approaches, are what makes a difference to the child effectively managing their grief.