As adults, the death of a loved one can leave us at a loss for words, unable to express how we feel, and seemingly lost in our grief. The same can be said for children, but they may have an even more difficult time coping and learning how to express their feelings.

As a child, I remember struggling to express my own grief when two very special people in my life, my grandparents, were killed in a motor vehicle accident.

BraveHearts, RiverStone Health’s grief support group for children and teens, often uses craft projects to help children express their grief when they are at a loss for words. Crafts have a way of bringing people together, regardless of their artistic ability. When you give a child the time, and the tools to create, the possibilities are endless.

Here are some art projects that can easily be done at home to help children express their loss:

  • Memory Box: A box to decorate and color. Inside the box, children can place special objects linked to stories they can remember and share about their loved ones.
  • Memory Candle: Children paint or decorate a jar and place a battery-powered candle inside. The battery-powered candle can be turned on at bedtime in memory of a loved one.
  • Nature Garden: Use a flower pot or other container to “plant” real or artificial items from nature and dedicate the “garden” to a loved one.

Because sharing memories of loved ones is so important, the children’s grief support group allows time for kids to talk about their memories, if they are willing to share them. The activities and projects help provide meaning and understanding to their feelings and offer a safe place and positive way to express them.

Without this opportunity, these feelings can turn into negative behaviors. Children may become withdrawn and isolated. Often these behaviors can lead to poor grades in school, and other issues may arise that can delay healthy emotional development.

In addition to artwork, age-appropriate books about loss and grief can also help kids understand their feelings. Special activities can also help both children and adults remember those we love, and reflect on their lives. One such activity is the annual Tree of Lights ceremony at RiverStone Health. The candle-lighting ceremony starts indoors by recognizing the names of loved ones who have died. The brief outdoor ceremony ends with lighting of the memorial spruce tree on the RiverStone Health main campus. Everyone is welcome to join the event, whether they are honoring someone who passed away recently or many years ago.

Tim Warburton, a social worker with RiverStone Health Hospice Services, may be reached at 651-6500.