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Coalition to Support Grieving Students
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Coalition Releases First‐Ever Bereavement Resource for Educators

The School Social Work Association of America is pleased to be a Founding Member of the Coalition to  Support Grieving Students  that launched a groundbreaking initiative to reach millions of grieving students in classrooms across the nation on January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC.   See   Press Release.  The Coalition to Support Grieving Students,, is an innovative multimedia resource designed to empower educators and school professionals in their efforts to support grieving students as they cope with loss.   

Research shows seven out of 10 teachers have a student affected by loss in their classroom. We know that the challenges associated with grief can lead to missed school days, a loss of concentration, and falling behind in school work.  Too many schools fail to properly assist grieving students. School staff are often so concerned with saying the wrong thing that they sometimes don't say anything at all. To help remedy the problem, the Coalition to Support Grieving Students launched The website includes online professional-development modules (see links below) —created in consultation with Dr. David Schonfeld and the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement—that address subjects like classroom discussions, consultation between educators to plan for re-entry to school, funeral attendance, and the psychology of child grief. It's the culmination of several years of work to develop resources to help educators understand and address student bereavement.

As we know, a compassionate response and a supportive environment for students to express and work through their grief can go a long way in preventing long-term damage to the student’s educational progress and enhancing their social and emotional well-being. The coalition’s resources bring greater awareness to the unique needs of the grieving student and all affected by loss. School personnel will be empowered to support students if they are given the proper resources to respond appropriately in times of grief and crisis. This includes alleviating the stress of feeling helpless, unsure of what to say or how to help. Education Week did an excellent piece on the launch event and the coalition’s resources.

School  Social Worker's Role:

According Anne McInerney, SSWAA President:  "School social workers often take the lead in coordinating the school’s grief response which includes working collaboratively with administrators and other school personnel. School Social Workers also work collaboratively with other Specialized Instructional Support Personnel in facilitating debriefing groups as well as other direct and indirect support services. As the vital link between the school, home and community, School Social Workers also provide a 'whole child' perspective since they are often familiar with issues the student may be experiencing at home and in the community that may also be impacting their response to loss."   

Rebecca Kunkel, Executive Director, noted: "In addition to working directly with students to process their grief, students experiencing recent family losses or mental health issues may need more direct support not only at school but may also need referrals to outside mental health providers or community resources. Since School Social Workers work closely with families as well as community resources, they are also very involved in facilitating acceptance of and access to those services."

Get involved:

See our Executive Director, Rebecca Kunkel's Letter of Invitation to School Social Workers to utilize the Coalitions' resources as well as to get involved and participate.

The Coalition's Website includes 5 Modules of Resources:

Conversation & Support

Talking With Children
What Not to Say
Providing Support Over Time
Peer Support

Developmental & Cultural Considerations
Concepts of Death
Connecting With Families
Cultural Sensitivity
Practical Considerations
Funeral Attendance
Secondary & Cumulative Losses
Coordinating Services & Supporting Transitions
Social Media

Reactions & Triggers
Impact on Learning
Guilt & Shame
Other Reactions
Grief Triggers

Professional Preparation & Self Care



Want more information about the Coalition to Support Grieving Students? 

See the Overview of the Coalition  ( 2 pages).   

Need more information or Resources?

See SSWAA's Compilation of Grief & Psychological First Aid Resources   Members     Public

See Q & A  about the Coalition, links to all of the Founding Members as well as additional Grief Response Resources to assist you.

Grief Support Articles:  Read articles by the Coalition that elaborate on ways to provide support.

Peer Support Articles
        "Your mommy died. You can't make a Mother's Day card!"
        Support Grieving Children by Teaching Skills to Their Peers
        5 Questions Children Often Have When a Classmate is Grieving

Support Over Time
       How Much Do You Know About Ways to Provide Support to Grieving Children Over Time?

Talking With Children
        “A lot of people stayed away from me and didn’t really talk to me a lot.” 

Cultural Sensitivity:
        Grief Across Cultures: Teacher Worries About “Doing Something Wrong”
        3 Tips: Supporting Grieving Students from Different Cultures
        Supporting Grieving Families: Q & A About Cultural Competence

To Help Grieving Families:
       Offer Advice on Funeral Attendance
       Death in the School Community: What Policies Should Schools Set About Funeral Attendance?

When a Loved One Dies: Is Funeral Attendance Good for Children?

More Questions?

Contact Libby Nealis, SSWAA's Director of Policy and Advocacy

Your membership dollars at work!

Coalition Lead Founding Members:

A very special thank you to the Lead Founding Members,  New York Life Foundation & the
National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement  for bringing this coalition and resources together to assist children and their families through very difficult times. 

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