REACHING STUDENTS WHO HURT: Teaching Kids With Trauma & Loss


[semester equivalent = 3.33 credits]



Jacquie Bernbaum



Most students experience some form of loss in their lives, and the grief that results can profoundly affect their academic performance, emotional stability, and social interactions. This class will help educators understand and respond to the extraordinary challenges that children may face when dealing with grief and loss.

You will learn strategies to help students affected by divorce, the death of a parent, relative, friend, or pet; violence; chronic illness, and more.  This class will examine grief experiences at different developmental levels and will give you strategies to:

  1. Respond appropriately to expressions of grief from children and adolescents
  2. Help students handle some of the emotions associated with loss
  3. Determine when to refer a child to a specialist
  4. Respect cultural attitudes towards grief and loss
  5. Understand and identify risk taking behaviors and suicide

This course is appropriate for those working in all grades, K-12 including teachers, para-educators, counselors, and other support personnel.


LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, participants will have:

  1. Understand why as an educator you are qualified to work with children who have experienced loss.
  2. Understand the different types of losses and grief reactions.   
  3. Understand the cognitive as well as the attachment and psychosocial development of children during the various stages of grief.
  4. Understand what students grieve.
  5. Recognize risk taking behaviors and the signs of impending suicide. 
  6. Access information and resources regarding how to help grieving students.
  7. Understand how to develop a school crisis response.

Completion of all specified assignments is required for issuance of hours or credit.  The Heritage Institute does not award partial credit. 


Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participant’s their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, or Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, and Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours.



Continuing Education Quarter credits are awarded by Antioch University Seattle (AUS). AUS requires 75% or better for credit at the 400 level and 85% or better to issue credit at the 500 level. These criteria refer both to the amount and quality of work submitted.

  1. Completion of Information Acquisition assignments 30%
  2. Completion of Learning Application assignments 40%
  3. Completion of Integration Paper assignment 30%


CREDIT/NO CREDIT (No Letter Grades or Numeric Equivalents on Transcripts)
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) Continuing Education Quarter credit is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis; neither letter grades nor numeric equivalents are on a transcript. 400 level credit is equal to a "C" or better, 500 level credit is equal to a "B" or better. This information is on the back of the transcript.

AUS Continuing Education quarter credits may or may not be accepted into degree programs. Prior to registering determine with your district personnel, department head, or state education office the acceptability of these credits for your purpose.



  • Instructional manual When Kids are Grieving: Addressing Grief and Loss in School by Donna Burns.  Approximately $22 at Amazon
  • Read one of the books in the bibliography of this syllabus. These books may be obtained from school or public libraries or ordered on

  • When Kids Are Grieving: Addressing Grief and Loss in School
    ISBN# 1629147761
    by Burns, Donna M.

    Buy from Amazon


Text, When Kids are Grieving: Addressing Grief and Loss in School by Donna Burns, is approximately $22 from Amazon. Read one of the books in the Bibliography of this syllabus. These books may be obtained from school or public libraries or ordered on



Assignment #1:

  • Introduce yourself with a 1-2 page background statement that includes the following:
  • Describe your current professional situation.
  • List your anticipated outcomes from taking this course.

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #1’.

Assignment #2:

  • Read Chapters 1 & 2 in the course text. Write a 2-3 page response highlighting the following:
  • What did you feel was most noteworthy about the ideas presented?
  • Based upon the author’s revelations, explain why the Six “R” processes of healthy grieving are essential to mental and physical well-being.
  • Pick two (2) of the Six “R” processes and explain why they stand out for you with regards to healthy grieving.  

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #2’.

Assignment #3:

Write a short definition and your response to how each one of these key terms can affect students in your classroom. Give personal insight into your own experiences (or that of a student that comes to mind) and how the interplay between the forces may have affected you personally or a student that you have knowledge of personally.

  • Anticipatory grief
  • Childhood traumatic grief (CTG)
  • Complicated grief
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Resonating trauma
  • Secondary losses
  • Unanticipated grief
  • Traumatic loss

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #3’. 

Assignment #4:

  • Read a book from the bibliography.
  • Write a 3-page response highlighting any information that will influence your particular educational setting and give the reasons why.   

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #4’.

Assignment #5:

  • Please read chapter 4 in course text, When Kids are Grieving: Addressing Grief and Loss.  
  • Explain how teens grieve and the issues associated with risk taking behaviors.
  • Create a set of 7-10 Essential questions that respond to this question: What do I need to know about grief in children and adolescents?  
  • Explain why the use of these questions is important in understanding the content of the book. 

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #5’. 

Assignment #6:

  • Read chapter 5 in the course text. 
  • In a 2-3 page paper describe your findings: First, define and then describe what your role will be with a grieving student; Second, discuss what information you will need to obtain before helping a grieving student.
  • How will you approach the student and what will you do in order to connect and support the student through their grieving process.

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #6’.

Assignment #7:

  • Discuss why ‘rituals’, as addressed in the course text, are important to a grieving student.
  • In a 2-3 page paper, describe the various rituals you would use in an educational setting when supporting a grieving student.
  • Also, talk about your understand in regards to the use of humor and euphemisms.   

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #7’. 

Assignment #8:

Read chapter #6 and write a 2-3 page paper including:

  • Create a school based crisis response team (composition of members, skills and training)
  • School Crisis Response Plan
  • Crisis Post prevention plan 

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #8’.



In this section you will apply your learning to your professional situation.  This course assumes that most participants are classroom teachers who have access to students.  If you are not teaching in a classroom, please contact the instructor for course modifications.  If you are a classroom teacher and start or need to complete this course during the summer, please try to apply your ideas when possible with youth from your neighborhood, at a local public library or parks department facility,  (they will often be glad to sponsor community-based learning), or with students in another teacher’s summer classroom in session.

Assignment #9:

  • Read a book of your choice from the bibliography. Or another book with the instructor’s prior approval.
  • Describe in a 2 - 3 page paper what learnings are most meaningful to you. 
  • Include what make these learnings valuable, and what you would share with other staff members in regards to working with students that are grieving.

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #9’.

Assignment #10:

  • Create your own case study about the loss of a student in your classroom. 
  • The loss could be due to illness, transferring to another school, hospitalization for mental illness, death, etc.
  • In a 2-3 page paper describe how you would handle this loss with your classroom. 
  • What steps would you take to ensure your classroom has time to process the loss? 
  • What professionals would you incorporate to support your efforts?

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #10’.

Assignment #11:

  • A student in your classroom has lost a parent to suicide or terminal illness. 
  • Describe in a 2-3 page paper what you will do to support the student as well help the student with resources outside the school setting.
  • Your answer should include the primarily learnings from this course that might be relevant.

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #11’.

Assignment #12:

Assignment #12-A:

  • Create a lesson reflecting what you’ve learned in this course.
  • Use The Heritage Institute lesson template or one from your district. (
  • Implement your lesson with students in your classroom.
  • Write a 250-500 word commentary on what worked well and what could be improved.
  • Include any student feedback on your lesson.
  • We encourage you to share what you’ve learned with other teachers taking our courses by also contributing your Lesson Plan to The Heritage Institute Lesson Plan Library here. (
  • Sample Lesson Plan Template:
  • Send your lesson plan and your commentary via email to your instructor.

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #12-A’.
Assignment #12-B:

  • Create a lesson reflecting what you’ve learned in this course. (Do not implement it.)
  • Use The Heritage Institute lesson template or one from your district. (
  • We encourage you to share what you’ve learned with other teachers taking our courses by contributing your Lesson Plan to The Heritage Institute Lesson Plan Library here. (
  • Write a 500+ word article concerning any noteworthy success you’ve had as a teacher with one or more students.
  • Please refer to the guidelines on our blog What Works: Teaching at its Best prior to writing your article. (
  • When you submit your article to your instructor, please also email a copy to Renee Leon THI blog curator and media specialist. (
  • Indicate whether or not you are OK with having your article considered for publishing on our website. 
  • Submit your lesson along with your article via email to your instructor.  

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #12-B’.

Assignment #13: (500 Level ONLY)

Option A)

In a 2-3 page paper and based on the learnings from this course, create a case study about a student who is experiencing a loss.  Explain how you would identify the student, your approach and how you will work to support this student during his or her loss.  Include resources and information that you will share with the student and parents. 

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #13-A’.


Option B)

Go to the bibliography and select an additional reading.

  • In 3-4 pages describe the learnings from this reading and describe how you might use the    information.
  • Describe how this knowledge will affect your teachings and deepen the relationships with students at risk.

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #13-B’.


Option C)

Another assignment of your own design with the instructor’s prior approval.

Send to instructor:  Subject line to read ‘Hurt #13-C’.


Assignment #14: (Required for 400 and 500 level)

(Please do not write this paper until you've completed all of your other assignments.)

  1. What did you learn vs. what you expected to learn from this course?
  2. What aspects of the course were most helpful and why?
  3. What further knowledge and skills in this general area do you feel you need?
  4. How, when, and where will you use what you have learned?
  5. How and with what other school or community members might you share what you learned?

Send to your instructor at their email address. Subject line to read  "(put course name here) Integration Paper"


Instructors will comment on each assignment. If you do not hear from the instructor within a few days of posting your assignment, please get in touch with them immediately.


Jacquie Johansson graduated with a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Gonzaga University in 1990, and for the past 24 years, she has worked for Spokane Public Schools as an elementary school counselor. During her tenure, she has dealt extensively with students of trauma and poverty, as well as gifted students and those from high income backgrounds.  

Jacquie is the co-founder and vice-president of Continuing-Credits, Inc., which develops and facilitates dynamic workshops across the Pacific Northwest.  Since the start of the company 14 years ago, she, along with her teaching partner Lori Gibson, has created and taught a vast variety of courses; the emphasis is counseling skills aimed at working with both students and staff.

Jacquie’s overarching mission, both as a counselor and an educator, is to produce classes that support knowledge and develop strategies necessary to work successfully with the entire spectrum of students and parent community with an end goal of constructing a safe, welcoming, and optimal learning environment for everyone.  As test scores become increasingly important in the school setting, educators need skills to build relationships quickly and effectively with students and staff. 

Drawing upon her experience as an elementary and secondary school counselor as well as an instructor at the university level, Jacquie is able to connect to students, parents, and staff.  Her fresh, fun approach to practical problem-solving provides useful techniques that can be implemented immediately.  Jacquie keeps current on new research, which she synthesizes with time-proven information to help educators structure a high-achieving classroom, and in turn, produce high-achieving students.



REACHING STUDENTS WHO HURT: Teaching Kids With Trauma & Loss

Burns, Donna M. (2008). When Kids Are Grieving:  Addressing Grief and Loss in School.  New York, NY: Corwin Group. This book will help teachers, counselors and administrators understand the extraordinary challenges that children and adolescents face when dealing the trauma and loss.  There are lots of charts, activities, case studies etc., that act as a resource book to help students handle emotions associated with loss and when intervention is most effective.

Cohen, Judith & Mannarino, Anthony (2006).  Treating Trauma and Traumatic Grief in Children and Adolescents.  New York, NY:  The Guilford Press. This book provides a comprehensive framework for assessing posttraumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.  Specific guidance is offered for responding to different types of traumatic events.

Craig, Susan E. (2008). Reaching and Teaching Children Who Hurt: Strategies for Your Classroom.  Baltimore, Maryland: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co. This is a wonderful book that researches the affects of trauma and poverty on children in the school system. There is also some tips that allow for a deeper understanding of basic differences and the “baggage” that often travels to school with students. Recognizing the signs of a student that is hurting and effective strategies that will allow you to reach and teach them.

Doka, Kenneth (2000). Children, Adolescents and Loss: Living with Grief. San Francisco, CA:  Brunner/Mazel. This book features articles by leading educators and clinicians in the field of grief and bereavement.  It has a comprehensive resource list of national organization.

Faber, Adele & Mazlish, Elaine (1999). How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. New York, NY:  HarperCollins Press.  This is still one of the best books around for skills on how to talk with kids so that they feel listened to and understood. It has great examples of how to handle those difficult conversations and end with a win/win on both sides. This book has stood the test a time and as a school counselor for 24 years I still recommend it to both teachers and parents.

Goldman, Linda (2000).  Life and Loss:  A guide to help grieving children. Philadelphia, PA: Accelerated Development.  This book looks at the issue of children denying or ignoring grief which leaves them feeling alone.  However, dealing with loss in productive ways is sometimes easier said than done. For decades, Life and Loss has been the book clinicians have relied on for a full and nuanced presentation of the many issues with which grieving children grapple with loss.

Greene, Ross (2008).  Lost at School: Why our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them.  New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.  This profound and fascinating work by Ross Greene tackles the tough subject of why behaviorally challenged students are often the ones that need our help the most. Regardless, they are often viewed as highly disrespectful, out of control, and beyond help. These students are also the ones that receive our most ineffective and most punitive interventions. This is an informative view of students that are hurting and how they let us know what is going on inside of themselves through the eyes of the educational system.

Hughes, Lynne (2005).  You Are Not Alone- Teens Talk About Life After the Loss of a Parent. New York, NY: First Scholastic.  This is a wonderful book about the Comfort Zone Camp (CZC) which was founded as a safe place for grieving children.  Through frank and accessible testimonials, Lynne Hughes and the kids of CZC share the most difficult parts of their losses and offer their own experiences of what helps, what doesn't, what "stinks," and ways to stay connected to their loved ones.