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Writing Letters or Drawing Pictures for the Family of the Deceased

To minimize feelings of guilt and to help process loss, teachers may provide opportunities in the classroom setting for students to write about or otherwise express their feelings about their loss. Adolescents may want opportunities to journal.




Student letters, notes, or artwork for families should be reviewed before they are shared to ensure that well-intentioned but potentially non-supportive statements, comments, or pictures are not shared with grieving family members. When creative writing or artwork is used, teachers should seek adequate input from mental health professionals to avoid over-interpretation and to obtain advice on how to ensure that students receive appropriate services if they are demonstrating distress from the recent death or experiencing problems from unrelated events that have surfaced in the aftermath of the crisis.


Activities that solicit anonymous statements, such as inviting students to write messages on a poster that is placed in an unmonitored location, should be avoided, especially in the setting of very traumatic losses, such as suicide or homicide, as school staff may not be able to respond appropriately to worrisome statements about suicide or threats for example.


Designate Areas for Further Support Support rooms for students and for school personnel can be staffed by mental health professionals from the school system or the community. Prior to any event, schools should establish policies for how students will access these support services.


In establishing these policies, the following questions should be considered: Is parent or guardian notification or permission required? Are children self-referred or do they require referral by a school staff member? Do they require a pass? Who will escort students who are very distressed? Do they need to report back to class before the end of a class period so that their whereabouts can be monitored?


Furthermore, in some situations schools may consider limiting off-grounds privileges in the immediate aftermath of a crisis and establish policies that require students to be cleared before leaving school during the day and dismissed early only to the legal guardian or designee.


After a major event, support services may be offered to students and staff before, during, and after the regular school day, and may also include services for interested family members. These services could occur on campus for a brief time after the incident, and after a few days the school may want to outsource the services by referring persons to pre-designated community mental health professionals.

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