Coping with Change, Loss and Grief


The following lesson can be downloaded as a multimedia PowerPoint presentation.

Outline that today we will be focusing on what changes to expect in our lives, and how to deal with them. Make the point that some changes are positive and exciting, whilst others are negative and upsetting – but change cannot be avoided and so it pays to know how to deal with it.

Starter: What types of change might we experience in the next few years? (10-15m)

Ask students, working alone or in pairs, to make a list of the sorts of things that might change in their lives before they reach the age of 20. To help them along, encourage them to think in terms of where they might go, what experiences they may have (note: this isn’t a lesson about puberty, so bodily changes don't need to be covered here).

Brainstorm these on the board, then ask students to discuss which of these are positive changes (“gain”) and which are negative changes (“pain”).

Focus on the “painful” changes. These are likely to focus on changes which involve a sense of loss: moving house, losing a cherished item, losing a job, losing touch with friends, splitting up with a partner, or losing a family member. Which of these also involve some gains? (e.g. moving house might mean seeing a new country, meeting new people and cultures). Which of them don't involve any gains at all? (e.g. losing a family member, ending a long-term relationship).

Discussion: What feelings might we have when we experience a loss? How can we help people who are suffering from loss? (10-15m)

Ask the class "What word do we give to the feelings we experience when we are suffering from this sense of loss?" = grief).

Outline that grief comes in all sorts of forms and for all sorts of reasons, but that the overall process of grieving tends to involve several phases and knowing this helps us to manage our feelings more effectively to help come to terms with our loss.

The most profound form of grief that we experience involves the death of a close friend or family member. What we are now going to do is consider how we should support somebody who is going through grief in this way, and thereby help to understand what we should try to do for ourselves and each other when grief affects us.

Lead a classroom discussion based around the following questions:

When somebody experiences loss:

a. What sorts of feelings might they have?

Possible ideas: Confusion. Guilt. Anger. Despair. Numbness. Disbelief.

At this point, watch the following video and ask students to make notes on what it suggests are the "Five stages of Grief":

Following this video, you could also outline the five stages of grief can be applied to the the COVID-19 pandemic. In the words of Kessler:

Acceptance is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.

b. What are some of the keys things that you should say and do with people suffering from grief?

Following an initial discussion on this question, proceed to the next activity.

Quiz: What are the "do's and don'ts" when helping somebody suffering from grief? (15-20m)

The teacher should now read out random entries from this list. For each one, take a quick vote on whether it is a "Do" or a "Don’t" and then discuss why.



“I am so sorry for your loss”

“I know exactly how you feel”

“My favourite memory of your loved one is…”

“It will be ok”

“I am here for you whenever you need me”

“They are in a better place now”

“It’s OK not to feel OK”

“You should be over it by now”

Be there to listen.

Keep out of their way.

Offer them a hug.

Turn the conversation to your own experiences of grief.

Encourage them to eat, sleep and exercise.

Tell them that it’s unhealthy to keep dwelling on their loss.

Now watch the following video to see how it reinforces the above ideas and perhaps provides some additional new ones:

Extension tasks

Ask students to suggest five symbols to represent the five stages of grief and use these as the basis of a classroom poster which applies these to a particular type of grief (e.g. divorce; losing a pet; living through the COVID pandemic).

A similar poster could be produced providing examples of "Do's and Don'ts" for dealing with people suffering from grief (different students could focus on different examples from the table shown above).

Ask students to research how different cultures, nationalities and religions have different approaches to funerals and commemorations of loved ones.