In recognizing November as Children’s Grief Awareness month, let’s take time to notice children grieve differently than adults and need special care. For them, the loss of a parent, sister or brother brings both sadness and confusion. Their feelings are not expressed the same way adults express them – showing up instead in sleep schedules, friendships, school activities and report cards. Please be open to their questions and the variety of feelings they are experiencing during this difﬁcult time. Model for them that it is okay to cry. Be a consistent listening ear for grieving youth. As a parent, teacher or adult in the life of a grieving child, you may want to offer some outlets for that child or teen to express themself. Teens and children are in need of tangible outlets to process their emotions.
You might consider the following activities for your child to help them move forward in their grief journey.
1.) Create Memory CD or Playlist: Music is a universal language that has healing for any age. As a family, you may each have a song that reminds you of your loved one. Or perhaps, there is a song that helps provide peace and comfort to yourself.
2.) Candle projects– Decorate a standard white candle using candle wax colored pens. The light from the candle often symbolizes hope in these dark times. Once the candle is lit, family members can take turns sharing stories of their loved one. The candle may also be displayed at the holidays to honor that person, whose physical presence is gone.
3.) “Get Active”-Children and teenagers may have overwhelming feelings of sadness and anger that need to be expressed physically through running, jumping, riding a bike, punching a pillow, yoga and/or deep breathing.
4.) “Celebrate Life”– Take time to recognize the loved one’s birthday and continue any previous family traditions. This may mean going out to eat to his/her favorite restaurant. Or as a family eat together his/her favorite dish. Some families may even choose to bake a birthday cake.
5.) Photo or Memory Book-In this digital age, not many people print photos, but I would encourage you to print photos and create an album of pictures of that person throughout their life. Talk with your child or teen about those pictures and the story behind each of them. If pictures are hard to locate, purchase a notebook at the local dollar store and have various family members and close friends write memories that include the child/teen and the deceased loved one.
Everybody grieves differently in their own way and pace. Children and teens are no exception to this. The activities above can be used as outlets for youth to begin to tell their story. It is important to be patient, be present, and be loving as we witness their healing process.