Secondary/High School Content

Activity 4: What is grief?

Key Questions

Click the arrow to expand each one or click here to expand all of the answers below:

How long do people grieve for?

It is important to understand that, while we can rebuild our lives after the death of someone important to us, we will continue to grieve for the rest of our lives. It is important to learn strategies to manage this grief and to be able to remember the person who died.

Should we use the words dead and died?

There are over 100 euphemisms (or other words or phrases) for the words dead, death and died. Examples might be passed away, lost, gone or departed and some people feel it is kinder to avoid saying the word ‘dead’. However, these words can be confusing and lead to misunderstanding, especially among younger children.

How can we describe grief?

Everyone grieves differently, but here are some examples – sadness, anger, loneliness, fear, panic, numbness. It can also be painful, difficult and isolating with feelings of relief (if someone had been ill for a very long time) or misplaced feelings of guilt/blame.

What helps when someone is grieving?

  • Be there for them; listen to them but understand when they do not want to talk.
  • Be prepared to reach out to them, to let them know you care.
  • Encourage them to express their grief when they need to but allow them space if they need, reminding them that you are there when they are ready.
  • Only share what they wish to be shared with others.
  • Help them to know they are important to you.
  • Speak to a trusted adult if you are worried about someone who is grieving.

Reflection and Support

Remind pupils that emotional reactions are normal and may be experienced at any time. Signpost to how pupils can access support through school and other organisations.

Ask them to think of something they are good at, they feel proud of or that they wish to achieve. Ask them to write it on a small piece of paper (A6) and on the back of this piece of paper they could do:

  • Mindfulness colouring:
    • Draw a squiggle on a page and colour the segments.
    • Fill a space with circles - draw round a pot, cup, tape roll, create patterns in the spaces.
    • Abstract doodles.
  • Create a graffiti name.

Ask pupils for examples of pieces of music which make them feel happy, create a feel-good playlist.

For staff – plan something together as part of the debrief. This could be a walk and talk or tea and cake after school, or at lunchtime. Signpost to support and check in with each other.