Grief In The Classroom: ‘Saying Nothing Says A Lot’

By Elisa Nadwordy, NPR News

Portrait of a child image

Deborah Oster Pannell’s husband died when her son, Josiah, was 6 years old. That week, Pannell visited Josiah’s school and, with his teacher and guidance counselor, explained to his first-grade class what had happened.

“I’ll never forget the three of us sitting up there — and all these little shining faces looking up at us — talking about how Josiah lost his dad and he might be sad for a while,” Pannell says.

Josiah, who is now 11 years old, has a few painful memories of the visit. “That day they were all just blatantly explaining what had just happened to me,” he says. “It was really uncomfortable.”

But Josiah also believes the visit helped make his classroom a healthy, safe space for his grieving.

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