Assisted suicide, death and loss

Tes Editorial


It's all right to cry

Loss affects people in different ways, so it can often be difficult to tell when a teenager is suffering as a result of bereavement.

Tears and sadness are expected, but more extreme symptoms can include aggression, drug use or self-harm. Bereavement counsellors say that although some young people seek help, others try to "bury" their suffering.

It is difficult enough for parents and families to help children cope, but for teachers it can be even more of a minefield. Guidance suggests taking the young person aside and telling them that it is OK to grieve and feel sad. Let them know that grief is a normal emotion.

Make it clear that they can talk to you if they need to, but offer other ways for them to express their emotions, such as painting or drawing, keeping a journal or exercising to improve and stabilise their mood. They may wish to plant a tree as a memorial, or join a charity to raise funds in honour of their lost loved one.

Most of all, students need to know that it is all right to cry.


Matter of life and death

People have always been fascinated by death. But attitudes have changed significantly since the times of the ancient Greek, Egyptian, Roman and Native American cultures that believed in an afterlife and spent much of their time preparing for it.

In those societies, the dead were honoured and feared. But between the 17th and 19th centuries, attitudes in Western civilisations changed dramatically. Death was romanticised, and personified in art and literature. The old notions of heaven and hell that had motivated people faded as scientific theories overtook religious belief in an afterlife.

During the late 19th and 20th centuries, attitudes to death changed again and it began to be viewed with dread by many. In the mid-20th century, poet Dylan Thomas wrote: "Do not go gentle into that good nightOld age should burn and rave at close of dayRage, rage, against the dying of the light."

Today, the fear of death is exacerbated by increases in medical skill and medical intervention, which have "tamed" death, according to David San Filippo, writing on attitudes to death and dying for National Louis University in Chicago, US.

But he goes on to argue that, as science and technology fail to answer many questions regarding life and death, religious and spiritual practices have increased in the US. He says it is estimated that more than 5 per cent of the US population claim to have had a "near death" experience.


Words of determination

It can take 13-year-old student Adam Bojelian a whole day to write a line of verse and months to complete a song. He has severe cerebral palsy and other complex problems, and communicates only through blinking. But despite his disabilities, he has become a campaigner for disability rights.

His mother Zoe saw how much Adam loved music when he was at playgroup, and noticed that he would blink every time children clapped their hands during a song. It was the start of a long process. Adam, who attends Forthview Primary School in Edinburgh, Scotland, wrote his first poem aged 9 and now writes by blinking to choose words from a list or letters from an alphabet chart.

Earlier this year, his song Coming out of the Ghetto, about disability rights, made the final four in the lyrics category of Amnesty International's Power of Our Voices song competition. Read the lyrics of Adam's song at: bit.lyAmnestySong

For details of next year's Power of Our Voices contest (open from September), visit


- Consider arguments for and against euthanasia in two lessons from chadwick77. bit.lyLessonsOn Euthanasia

- Explore Christian views on assisted suicide with activities from jerseyperson. bit.lyExploring Euthanasia

- Find out about disability rights and the obstacles that disabled people can face in a lesson from TES Connect partner Discover Human Rights. bit.lyDisability RightsLesson

- Use videos of people talking about their experiences to explore bereavement. bit.lyVideo Bereavement


- Find out how you can support bereaved young people with resources from TES Connect partner Child Bereavement UK. bit.lyChild Bereavement

- Debate assisted dying using a guide from TES Connect partner instituteofideas. bit.lyAssisted Dying

- Introduce your class to news writing basics in TESEnglish's activity. bit.lyNews ReportWriting.

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