Supporting the grieving student

According to a survey by the American Federation of Teachers and New York Life Foundation, 70% of classroom educators currently teach a student who lost someone close in the past year. But only 7% of the teachers have ever received bereavement training. The AFT and the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement have partnered to enhance the professional development of teachers and other school personnel so that they can better support grieving students.

Schools and school staff are central to the community, and are an excellent resource to support grieving students and provide guidance for families, who may not know where else to look for such support. You and your members may be the only professionals in a position to offer timely advice on funeral attendance or recommendations on how to help children understand death and cope with difficult feelings, such as guilt.

The AFT wants to help create a culture in schools where understanding and addressing the needs of grieving students is seen as part of the professional role of educators and other school personnel. Through generous support from the New York Life Foundation, the AFT has piloted bereavement training workshops with three of its local affiliates in Charlotte County, Fla., San Francisco and New York City.

In order to help all members better understand their role with grieving students, we’ve compiled resources to help you better serve these students within the school setting. The goal of these resources is to give you and your members a basic level of training so you can start critical conversations with and provide basic support for grieving students.

For more information, please contact

Bereavement 101

  1. "Guidelines for Responding to the Death of a Student or School Staff": This booklet is designed to help school administrators, teachers and crisis team members respond to the needs of students and staff after a loss, such as the death of a student or staff member or a death that affects many people in the community.
  2.  Supporting the Grieving Student, by David J. Schonfeld and Marcia Quackenbush
  3.  After a Loved One Dies—How Children Grieve, and How Parents and Other Adults Can Support Them, by David J. Schonfeld and Marcia Quackenbush
  4. Other resources to share with families:


Death by suicide can have a unique impact on families, friends and school communities. For more on how schools can prevent suicide, as well as strategies after a suicide occurs, please see Youth Suicide.