Resources for Schools

How Schools Can Support Students During COVID-19 

For bereaved children and young people, the support they receive from counselors, teachers and school staff is critical. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic when children are isolated from their usual support networks, this support takes on an added importance. Although face-to-face contact is limited to computer screens, there are plenty of ways you can support your students during this difficult time. 

For more information, contact
Gilly Cannon, Director of Children's Bereavement Services, or 301-990-8904

How can I support bereaved children (or those facing bereavement)? 

All the strategies above are especially important when a child in your care is facing or has experienced the death of someone close. Usual school bereavement strategies, such as one-on-one interactions and Good Grief Clubs, can’t be put into place. There are, however, some things that schools can do to show students that they are remembered and supported at a distance. Many of these are simply what you would normally do, taken into a virtual context. 


Your initial response (to be adapted for your situation) 

  • Principal, counselor or teacher makes contact with the family to acknowledge what has happened, confirm information about the loss is correct, and expresses support. When contacting the family, ask if or how they want information about their loss to be shared with the school community. 

  • Consider having the principal, counselor, and/or teacher send a written card or letter to the student to acknowledge what has happened and express support. 

  • Choose who will be the liaison between the school and family. If there are children of different ages in the family, consult with the other school counselors to decide who will be the point of contact for the family.

  • Reach out to any other students or families who may be impacted by the news of an illness or loss in the community.  

  • Check in on staff members who know or work with the student. Any death affecting a student can trigger other remembered griefs and, at this time of crisis, a sense of helplessness in not being able to respond as they would normally. 


Further support 

  • Keep the support-at-a-distance coming through the counselor or teacher. 

  • Consider compiling condolences for the child from their peers. This could include collecting messages, photos or drawings and organizing them in an electronic book to email to the family.  

  • Provide resources for the family, such as suggested books on grief and websites with useful information, such as and other resources listed below. Counselors and families are encouraged to reach out to Gilly Cannon, Director of Children's Bereavement, 301-990-8904 or

  • When schools re-open, remember the support needs of bereaved students in planning their return to the classroom. 

*Adapted from

How can I help my students when the schools are closed? 

Uncertainty and anxiety can affect us all. For students, counselors and teachers, the huge change in circumstances and shift in daily routines can be very hard to manage. There are still ways to be there for each other. 

Keep in touch
Whenever possible, keeping in touch with students who may be feeling anxious and uncertain, or who may be experiencing the illness or death of a loved one, can make a positive difference. “Virtual” outreach through scheduled phone calls, emails or video conferencing can offer impactful opportunities to connect with both students and their caregivers who may be struggling.  


Keep a routine

Encouraging students and parents to continue some sort of school routine from home, and to create some structure can help “normalize” their days. 


Listen and reassure 

Acknowledge how strange and difficult this situation is, rather than trying to make it better. Listen to their worries and fears: these are real and we can’t take them away, but it will help children if someone they know and trust hears them. Reassure them when you are able to do so honestly. 


MCPS Waymaking - Grief and Loss

February 26, 2021

featuring Gilly Cannon, Director of Children's Bereavement Services

Gilly Bayes Cannon, our Director of Children's Bereavement Services, joined Dr. Christina Connolly, Montgomery County Public Schools' (MCPS) Director of Psychological Services, on the latest episode of the MCPS Waymaking series, to discuss how families can better understand feelings of loss and provide ways to support a grieving child.

CaringMatters Webinar

Supporting Grieving Students After a Death:

How We Can Help Them Build Resilience in a Time of Physical Distancing


A Hands-On Experience for School Personnel, Social Services Professionals from Community-based Organizations, and Allied Mental Health Professionals 

Presented by Gilly Cannon, Director of Children's Bereavement

May 20, 2020

Participate in a hands-on, resilience-building activity to use with students in-person or through Zoom. Learn how this type of interactivity can help students identify coping tools to support them through their grief.

Who should view: School Counselors, Teachers, Social Services Professionals from community-based organizations, and Allied Mental Health Professionals.

Participants will learn:

  • How children and teens grieve

  • How we can support grieving students after a death

  • How our ability to be effective in providing support has been impacted by physical distancing due to COVID-19

  • How we can help them build resilience after a death

  • A hands-on tool to encourage resilience building

This webinar is based on a presentation delivered by Gilly Cannon at

the School Community United in Partnership (SCUP) Conference in October, 2019.