Teaching about change, loss and grief

Jan 12, 2022 9:22:53 AM

Children and young people can experience a range of significant changes and losses before they reach adulthood. So it’s essential that we support them to explore change, loss and grief safely and effectively, and to seek support when needed.

Read more below and download our new KS1-4 lesson plans on this topic right away, available exclusively to members.


Fifteen significant losses...

According to Grief UK, most children experience fifteen significant losses, on average, before they reach adulthood.

These losses might include:

  • the death of a family member
  • parental separation
  • moving or having someone close to them move away
  • rejection from a university or college

Social media, news and TV subject young people to increasingly explicit depictions of death, natural disasters, wars and atrocities. And the Covid-19 pandemic has led to additional change, loss and grief for many in recent years.



Grief is a natural response to loss. It can cause someone to experience a wide range of feelings, emotions, or physical reactions. Although grief is often experienced in response to a bereavement, it can occur in response to other losses too, for example:

  • injury or illness (experienced by self or others)
  • separation from home or family
  • changes to family arrangements

When teaching this topic, make sure you emphasise the range of different responses that people may have to change and loss. It’s important for pupils to understand that there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to grieve.


Distance the learning

As with many other PSHE education topics, change, loss and grief can bring up a range of emotions in young people, so it’s safer and more effective to use characters and scenarios to explore this topic rather than asking pupils to reflect on and share their own experiences.

The activities in our new PDF and PowerPoint lesson plans have been designed with this in mind, so you can help pupils explore this topic safely and effectively at each key stage.


Sources of support

It is important to remind pupils that — outside of any help and support they get at home — they can also access support in school (e.g. through their form tutor, head of year, or school nurse) and out of school, through local and national organisations.

National organisations you could signpost to in lessons include:

There are lots of different ways young people can seek help from reputable organisations, including text-based support, digital chat support and online counselling, as well as face to face or by phone. It’s helpful to let pupils know the full range of what’s on offer so they can choose the right fit for them.

Pupils with special educational needs may need additional support to access these services. Always check the appropriateness of a website for individual pupils before directing them to it.

Teaching about this topic and managing disclosures from pupils can take an emotional toll, so it’s vital that you’re supported by your colleagues in school. The Education Support Partnership also provides free help for teachers from trained counsellors.


Our lesson plans

Our new lesson plans on change, loss and grief are the latest addition to our mental health and emotional wellbeing lesson packs. We’ve built this new lesson series into existing schemes of work for each key stage to ensure this topic is addressed sensitively and age-appropriately.

The lessons – complete with accompanying guidance, resources and PowerPoints – will help your pupils explore and understand:

  • how change, loss (including bereavement) and grief affect people
  • the different responses people can have when grieving
  • strategies to help manage change, loss and grief
  • sources of support and how to access them

Where have the new lessons on change loss and grief been added?

  • KS1 lesson 4: Change and loss
  • Year 3-4 lesson 3: Change, loss and grief
  • Year 5-6 lesson 3: Managing loss and bereavement
  • KS3 lesson 6: Change, loss, grief
  • KS4 lesson 4: Change, loss, grief

How can I plan this content into my PSHE education programme?

The lessons have been designed to address all the relevant learning opportunities in our Programme of Study for PSHE education and will support you to address the mental health aspects of Health Education.


Download the lesson plans