School Counsellor Talk on Grief

Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.

– Leo Tolstoy 

School Counsellors often have to assist students with the grief process. Over the years I have seen students who have lost parents, siblings, friends, classmates and family members.

When a school experiences the loss of a student everyone feels the loss as expressed  here by a note left to a student who died.


Even though we haven’t formally met, I look at your spot in English class and I am deeply saddened that you are not here with us…

It is never easy seeing a student in deep pain especially if the loss was tragic or sudden. Often times school counsellors need to ensure that they have dealt with their own issues surrounding grief so that they can best help others. School Counsellors need to be aware of vicarious trauma or counsellor burnout when assisting students who have experienced traumatic events.

Wendy Kurchak who is a retired school counsellor and now certified thantologist defines trauma loss as “a type of loss resulting from a sudden unexpected loss which is perceived as traumatic by the griever. It involves grief response + trauma response = complicated grief.” The suicide of a student is one of the most tragic a school counsellor will ever have to deal with and can most certainly bring about this kind of a response.

The school counsellor will often be dealing with the grief of several students and possibly the adults around them in any situation where a loss has affected the school community.

It is extremely important that a school counsellor takes care of their own selves as well as being present to the grief of others. To learn more about your own level of compassion fatigue go to:

Grief is a process and not an event. Every person’s grief is as unique as the individual or situation of loss. School counsellors may need several resources to assist students in their school community with a loss.

Students need to be reminded:

  • To grieve in their own time and way
  • That it is OK to cry and grieving comes in waves (sometimes unexpectedly through a song, a smell, or a picture. Anything can trigger moments of grief)
  • Writing in a journal, creating songs, painting, creating a space and a place to grieve may help
  • Dr. Allan Wolfelt is a leading expert in this field and offers great information
  • It is ok to talk to someone like your school counsellor, a teacher, friend, parent or your local hospice

The school counsellor can use the following sentence completions with students:

  1. Grief is …
  2. You can help me by…
  3. Something I can do to help myself is…
  4. Others should realize that I…
  5. When I am sad I …
  6. My loss feels…
  7. I don’t know what to do when I am feeling…
  8. The hardest part of my grief for me is…
  9. If I could teach someone something about grief it would be…
  10. I can turn to _________ to help me.

School Counsellors can also find resources in my live binder:

Click here:

Livebinder on Grief

If you have any grief resources you want to share , please feel free to tweet me @SSpellmanCann.

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