It seems that there’s a prevalent societal fear of death and dying. It doesn’t take long to spot the signs of a cultural Peter Pan phenomena. We buy lotions and potions to help us stay young. We often habitually numb our minds and our bodies to avoid emotional and physical pain and ultimately, to avoid the one thing that is inevitable for all of us, death.
However, the Bible is unabashed on this topic. In Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 8, we read that
So not the ‘stay young at any cost’ pervasive attitude of our society, but instead very definitely, an ordained ‘time to be born and a time to die.’
As much as many people try to avoid thinking about it, death is undeniably a fact of life, and it’s important for children to know about it and be able to have open and honest conversations about it. Death is God’s plan for the end of our human lives on earth. But Christians believe it is also the beginning of life in a new way with Jesus in heaven, so there is much hope that goes hand in hand with death.
Knowing that God’s hand is over all aspects and every ‘season’ of our lives can bring comfort and peace, and yet it is still, rightly, very sad when we lose someone we love.
The two new resources available to help primary schools navigate the difficult topics of death, dying and grief are:
Because of Jesus
A Collective Worship prayer and assembly resource, written specifically to support school communities in the light of the death of a community member or someone close. From the foundational understanding that we have hope ‘because of Jesus’ and how He died and rose again, this resource offers a chance for school communities to gather together and acknowledge the death and loss, to hold space for the feelings and memories it might evoke and to pray for the deceased and their family.
A Time for Everything
A Life to the Full resource, differentiated for use across KS1 and KS2, which discusses the fact of death as part of the human life cycle and Christian beliefs about how death is not the end. It also explores the complexity of grief, and considers ways in which children and adults alike can be sensitive and supportive to people who are grieving, including non-death grief.
Session 1: Beginnings and Endings
The previous session in this unit considered how God created us to follow the human cycle of life, and we are loved by Him at every stage. This session builds on this foundation by introducing the beginning and ending points of the human life cycle: birth and death, the latter of which is the main focus of the session.
Session 2: A Time For Everything
The previous session in this unit explored birth and life before it; this session discusses death and life after it. Framed within the Christian understanding of eternal life, this session helps pupils to consider and communicate about death in a direct yet gentle way, reflect compassionately on the complexities of grief and consider ways to support themselves and others.
Both of these resources have been created with great care: they are direct, yet gentle. Each resource also provides a document for teachers who will be leading the session offering guidance about how and when to use the resource, what kind of approach to take, tips on communication (including what not to say!) and advice on questions that might come up.
We hope these resources will be useful to schools, whether as part of the curriculum, or as a source of comfort and guidance through a bereavement in your school community.
It’s important to remember that broaching the topic of death can be very painful for adults too, often because of their own lived experiences of bereavement and grief. For some, even reading this article will be difficult. If this topic raises difficult emotions and thoughts for you and you’re looking for some support, a good starting place might be this document from Cruse.