At the Hospice Palliative Care Ontario Conference 2016 in Toronto, Dr. Kathy Kortes-Miller facilitated a workshop titled: “Dying to Know: Situating Death in Education.” Workshop participants came from all walks of life but held a common belief that palliative care providers can support improving how young people learn about dying, death, loss and bereavement in schools. Dr. Kortes-Miller facilitated a revised version of a “liberating structure” and the group shared “big, bold ideas” about what they could each do and the first steps to supporting our school communities. Some highlights include:

  • Idea: Facilitate field trips to funeral homes and long term care facilities.
    • First Step: Work with funeral homes and LTC facilities to create proposals for school
  • Idea: Offer workshops for teachers on death education, how to speak with children about dying and grief so that they feel better prepared to support their students
    • First Step: Approach school boards for inclusion in professional development days
  • Idea: Encourage classrooms to adopt a pet with a short lifespan (e. g. fish) to provide an opportunity to learn about loss in a safe environment
    • First Step: Develop this idea to include guidelines and information for teachers
  • Idea: Host a “Die-alogue” or Death Cafe at the school. These could be done with students and also in the evening for parents of students
    • First Step: Approach a school with the idea and be really clear about how this material would be shared
  • Idea: Make sure school libraries have a robust selection of books that explore dying, death, loss and bereavement
    • First Step: Speak with the school librarian and if resources are lacking see if a funeral home might be interested in supporting the purchase of additional books

“We are powerless to control the losses and catastrophic events our children may experience, but by honouring their inner wisdom, providing mentorship, and creating safe havens for expression, we can empower them to become more capable, more caring human beings.” – Linda Goldman