Children’s Grief Awareness Day, November 19th, is a special day dedicated to the unique needs of children who have lost someone they love. You don’t have to be a professional or expert on the topic of death or children to be able to support a child who is grieving. You just have to be able to listen and support them in a developmentally appropriate manner.
Play is their language and allows us to get on the child’s level and gain access to their inner world. By allowing kids to play and providing them activities at their level they can process the anticipated or recent death and develop mastery over the situation. Remember, using open-ended question provides kids a chance to talk about the person they may lose or have lost.
Here are some activities that can provide your child or a child you work with the opportunity to reflect on their loss while honoring the person they love so dearly. The recommended book with each activity is something you can read with the child to focus your activity.
1. Memory Box- You’ll need a white photo box (can be found at an arts & crafts store) and a variety of stickers, markers, photos, etc. Let the child decorate the box and use it to store special mementos of their loved one.
Recommended Book: Badger’s Parting Gifts, by Susan Varley or Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories, by Audrey Penn
2. Legacy Bracelet- If you’re familiar with Rainbow Loom bracelets, you can have your child design a bracelet that represents their loved one’s life. Encourage them to discuss the meaning behind each color chosen and possibly put a white band in the middle to represent their “Invisible String” to the person who died. Rainbow Loom Bracelet instructional videos
Recommended Book: The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst
3. Mosaic Cross- You’ll need a plain, wooden cross, tacky glue, and mosaic tiles (all found in arts & crafts stores). Encourage the child to design a mosaic cross that represents their relationship to their person. Each color can represent something different, or they can create a design from the tiles. The beautiful part about this activity is no two crosses are alike- just like no two people are alike. This cross is as unique and special as their loved one.
Recommended Book: Waterbugs and Dragonflies, by Doris Stickney (Note: This book was selected since it is possible to turn it into a spiritual activity if the participants choose to do so.)
4. Remembrance Flowers- You’ll need a small, clay flowerpot and markers. Encourage the child to decorate the pot with words or drawings that remind them of their person. They can plant Forget Me Notseeds and watch them become a beautiful reminder of their person. You could dedicate a special area in the yard where the child can plant the flowers, giving them a place to “be” with their loved one.
Recommended Book: Always and Forever, by Alan Durant
When supporting a child who is grieving, remember to keep calm and play on. For more information, go to Children’s Grief Awareness Day.