Northwest Colorado Health: Creative projects can help children grieving a loss
December 20, 2018
Holiday traditions can provide a sense of stability in our ever-changing world, especially for children, but they can also compound grief for children who have lost a friend or loved one.
Sandy Beran leads Northwest Colorado Health's Youth Resiliency programs in Moffat County. The programs support children, adolescents, and teens who have experienced loss.
Beran suggests using traditions as opportunities for children to share holiday memories of the person they have lost. They can talk about their memories or do an activity, such as baking their loved one's favorite holiday dish. If you decide to hang the deceased person's stocking, you can invite children and family members to write down a memory and put it in the stocking. Families can share their memories on Christmas morning or during a holiday meal.
"We can remind them that no one can take those memories away, and they can always look back on and gain strength from them," Beran said.
Grief can take on many expressions. It's important to acknowledge that emotions come and go, and they are not right or wrong.
"Let them know they might be having these emotions because they are missing their loved one," Beran said. "They may want to talk about it or maybe take some time to rest. Let them know it is OK, and you will welcome them back to the festivities as soon as they are ready to participate."
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Creative projects are a good way for children to channel their emotions. They can make simple projects with glue or Modge Podge and common craft supplies in the home. Paint a shoebox and adorn it with tissue paper, buttons, and other embellishments to create a memory box. Fill it with photos and trinkets that remind the child of the person he or she has lost. Glue colored pieces of tissue paper and glitter onto a jar, add an LED light, and you have a memory lantern for the dinner table or a special place in the home.
You can find more ideas and resources for memorializing loved ones at whatsyourgrief.com.
Other types of losses or big changes in a child's life can spur grief. A divorce or serious illness in the family, a move that takes them away from friends, a family member who has left the home, or financial hardship within the family can all create a sense of loss for children.
"Make sure you are approachable, and allow them to share without judgment," Beran said. "This forms a bond that will always be available, including later in life, when they may really need it."
Northwest Colorado Health's Youth Resiliency program provides outreach services, support groups, and education to youth coping with these types of adversities. For more information, visit northwestcoloradohealth.org/youthresiliency or call Beran at 970-871-7682.