Navigating Back-to-School with Grief

Times of change and transition can be especially difficult for grieving children and families. Back to school season is no exception, whether your child finds comfort in the routine and support school provides or is struggling with the anxiety and stress of returning to school.

Grief can work as a “magnifier” to existing behaviors. For instance, if a child was worried about fitting in this school year, their worry may be elevated wondering how they will now fit in being the child without a dad. Grief can even impact the youngest students, starting their very first days of school, who are riddled with separation anxiety even without a loss. Teens and older children can experience difficulty concentrating or remembering assignments after a death.

If the death happened over the summer, ask your child what they would like shared with their teachers and peers. School professionals are equipped to help support grieving students and make a difference in your child’s life academically and can help them to feel understood.

You know your child best and know what behaviors were present before the death and those that are just part of the child’s personality. It’s easy to worry about our children and how they are coping. Because grief is so unique to the individual, there is no “normal” in grief, but there are things to look out for. Keep watch on the intensity and duration of your child’s behaviors. If your child displays emotions or behaviors that seem intense or worry you because of the length of time they’ve presented, reach out to a professional to check in.

Frequently Asked Questions

My child insists they’re “fine,” but I am worried about them. How do I communicate with them? Try a journal or notebook. Have your child pick out a blank notebook and instruct them to keep it somewhere where you both know it is. Encourage them to put thoughts, worries, and questions down knowing that when they are away, you will read it and respond. This helps take the pressure off them worrying about watching your reaction and can help them open up to you.

I’m already feeling overwhelmed! What can I do to make the year easier?

Pace yourself. The back to school season brings about a lot of changes at once. For some, school schedules include sports, dance, music, or church activities. Is there anything you can skip or take your time with in the first two weeks back? Are there things you can say “no” to and just relax? Find those moments and know that you are not alone. Ask for help when you need it.

For more grief resources or additional support, please call us at (313) 771-7005.

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