Sunday 5 February 2023


How can you provide support for your community after a death has occurred?                                                                    by Hazel Edwards OAM

Educator-author Hazel Edwards has written books for children, teachers, and adults. Her best-known is There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake series (1980)

After primary teacher training, she taught secondary school students and lectured at teachers’ college. She has published over 220 books across genres and subjects. She has also scripted for screen, stage, and puppetry. Hazel received an OAM for Literature in 2013.  Monash University awarded her the 2022 Distinguished Alumni for Education

In the past year I’ve been to nine funerals. These included family, friends, neighbours, and some from the literary community. As an author, I’m often asked to write eulogies, but that can be challenging when the person was very close. 

I had very mixed feelings about the timing of this book’s release and didn’t want it seen as opportunistic but…I had written an article about the bureaucratic challenges of being widowed during Lockdown and that had helped many bereaved partners. Death and grief are taboo subjects and communities coping with mass tragedies related to flooding, fire or accidents need help too.

Circumstances change and an earlier book suddenly becomes relevant again. AMBA has released ‘Grief and Loss in Schools’ updated from my out- of- print ‘I Thought I Was the Only One’. Re-reading what I’d written as activities and scripts to help others, years ago, I found was genuinely helpful now for me too. It was like reading something written by another person.

Value of Scripting

I’ve written and used classroom scripts for literacy and to share facts with all ages. But emotional subjects like grief and death, need careful scripting so all cultures may be involved. The benefit of performing is that students can pretend to be someone or something else. That’s a relief for some. Students also read as part of a group AND explore the emotional or factual content. Whether writing their own scripts to perform or using these scenarios or activities, ‘Grief and Loss in Schools’ provides resources for dealing with difficult situations. Even a sample letter to write after the death of a student is included to show how to write in tragic situations. And how to write a eulogy.


The presence of a script is reassuring because there is something to 'talk around'. Using discussion scripts is bibliotherapy (`book therapy')

                allows the reader to identify with a problem through the character's reactions.

                helps children to realise they are not alone.

                leads to the sharing of problems.

                provides opportunities for small groups to discuss personal worries during


                initiates the topic of loss with parents at home while preparing costumes or scripts for the performance.

                provides a cathartic experience.

The material       

It was technically challenging to write this material. My personal guidelines were:

• Is the script an honest and accurate portrayal of experiences of grief?

• Is the script likely to open discussion on a sensitive topic?

• Will the content be usable by all cultures?

Because cultures vary in their practices, and different aged students may be involved, it was easier to have no-age characters who were animals, abstractions or insects.

• Will it work as a play? Can the script be performed in an average classroom? Are there sufficient roles? Is there an underlying conflict (apart from life versus death) which is being resolved? Does enough happen? Is the language suitable for the age group?

Writing scripts as a group is a good way of working out your ideas on a topic.

                On my author website I keep a book page for each current title, with links to where available.


                Publisher Link.

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