Grieving the Last Days of School: A Deeper Look at Year-End Emotions

Grieving the Last Days of School: A Deeper Look at Year-End Emotions

Kristi Kraychy, May 2024

As we approach our final weeks, our classrooms buzz with the excitement of end of year activities— exciting projects, overnight camp, class parties, sports days, and field trips. Beneath the surface excitement, however, many students and teachers find themselves grappling with unexpected sadness as May and June unfold. For some, school is a home away from home, and their classmates and teachers are like an extended family. The last days of school often evoke a profound sense of loss in the best of times, and this year, these feelings intensify as our school prepares to close permanently.

While the end of the school year is typically seen as a time for fun and anticipation of summer freedom, it can also be a challenging period for many students. Younger children might struggle with the changes to routine and energy levels and may act out in unexpected ways. They may not understand why they feel sad or anxious amidst the general joy and excitement, leading to confusion, frustration and more challenging behaviours at school and at home.

Older students often experience a bittersweet mix of nostalgia, excitement and nerves. They look forward to summer but dread the lack of daily interactions with friends. The thought of moving on to a new grade with more academic pressures and possibly less familiar teachers can sometimes cause significant anxiety. At our school, many fear the loss of the comforting, familial atmosphere they’ve grown accustomed to.

On the other side of the classroom, teachers face their own set of emotional challenges. Although teachers typically look forward to the perks that summer offers, many grieve the loss of their students who are moving on to a new classroom each year, even if they will be returning to the school. This year, our emotions are amplified by the impending closure of our school. What was usually an annual routine of goodbyes takes on a heavier weight as we realize these are not just annual farewells but final ones. There’s a collective mourning as we prepare to part ways, not just with our students but with colleagues who have become a significant part of our daily lives, and with whom we have shared countless moments of learning, growth, laughter and friendship over the past few years.

Recognizing these emotions is the first step in addressing them. This week, we discussed the concept of grief in our assembly with older students. We discussed how grief is always tied to some form of loss but does not have to be related to death. Grief can come in waves and is rarely linear, but there are some predictable aspects that might help normalize what you or your child is experiencing. In addition to tears, elements such as anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance all commonly accompany grief but they don’t always come up in expected ways or an expected timeline.

Parents can help by planning activities that both celebrate the end of the year and provide comfort, such as sharing a special outing or treat to welcome summer while honoring the past year’s experiences and feelings. Offering space and grace for the various elements of grief, by listening and being open to discussions about these feelings without trying to offer advice or solutions can also be incredibly beneficial.

Encouraging children to write notes of gratitude or give small gifts to friends and teachers can help provide closure in a healthy way. As for the adults, taking time to reflect upon and honour our own feelings while making plans to stay in touch over the summer can be helpful.

Finally, as we turn the page on this chapter, it’s important to approach the future with hope. Engaging with the upcoming changes positively, focusing on new beginnings rather than just the endings, can help everyone—students, parents, and teachers alike—navigate this transition with resilience and optimism.

*Note – As of July 2024, our blog posts will be moving to: