As much as you’d like to protect your child, grief is a natural part of life and one he must sometimes face. Whether it’s grief over the death of a pet, family member or friend, your child can work through his emotions in many ways. Offering activities to help him remember and honor his loved one will enable him to continue the healing process while keeping the memories alive.
Telling Stories for Healing
According to KidsHealth.org, healthy grief involves finding ways to adjust to life without the one who’s gone and finding ways to remember that person. As your child works through the grieving process, he will need you to listen to his story of what happened and how he first felt and now feels about it. Encourage him to use words or stories to tell you about the loved one he’s lost.
Preserving Happy Memories
Your child can use objects to preserve her cherished memories too. Help her find photos to create a special photo album, maybe one that tells the story of her relationship with the person she lost. Allow her to keep a lost family member’s trinket or piece of jewelry and help her find or make a way to display it. She can also create and decorate a memory box which holds reminders of the loved one, such as a pet’s collar and tags or birthday cards from a grandparent.
Creating Memory Helpers
Art and writing activities can also help your child cope with grief. PBS.org suggests you encourage her to create a collage, a portrait of her loved one including images that represent the person and his hobbies or favorites, using photos or magazine cut-outs and anything else that your child finds useful. Your child can also paint or draw a picture that illustrates a special memory with the person she lost, or which explains how she now feels. Older children might want to keep a journal. PBS.org suggests keeping it low-key by not worrying about spelling or grammar. Instead, have your child get comfortable and write from the heart. She can write whatever comes to mind about the person or her feelings, or she can write a letter to the person.
Honoring Memories Long-Term
Some children benefit from a more public way to remember a lost loved one. If your child has lost a pet, the American Humane Association suggests you help him plan and hold a memorial service during which he shares his memories, or encourage him to volunteer at a local animal shelter with you if he is open to the idea. After losing a family member, KidsHealth.org suggests your child may want to create a tribute to him by planting a tree or garden, or by taking part in a charity walk or run. You can make it an annual event, as well, to help him keep his special memories alive over time.