children who are grieving the death of someone,
or who are witness to traumatic loss, such as is
happening with recent tragedies, feel emotion on
many levels, not the least of which is physical.
Planning activities for children and teens that
allows them to express their feelings provides a
healthy and effective outlet for the many
emotions they are experiencing. These activities
can also bring parents and children together, at
a time when the support of the family is of
For Children of Any Age:
Equipment: Cereal box, paper towel tube, tape,
Stuff a cereal box with crumpled paper.
2. Close the cereal box and cut a hole in the
top for the paper towel tube.
3. Tape the paper towel tube to the hole in the
4. Decorate the box however you want.
5. Scream into the box!!!
Equipment: Box of any size, tape, paper.
Fill the box with paper, you can cut pictures
from a magazine or write down things that make
2. Tape the box shut.
3. Use a plastic bat, bataka, or jump on the box
until its in shreds.
4. Burn or recycle the remnants!
Equipment: Sculpt clay, toothpick, old cookie
Create beads from clay; use a toothpick to put a
hole in the middle.
2. String the beads after baking in the oven
according to package directions.
Equipment: Clay or play dough, water for
Use the clay to mold into different shapes.
2. The feel of the clay can be soothing, anger
can be released when children through it onto a
Getting at Guilt - Children Struggling with
Guilt over Loss
Equipment: Small, safe space, telephone books.
Sit with the child or children in a circle and
talk openly about how you have experienced guilt
feelings when someone died.
2. Ask if the children have had feelings like
that and then have each person say "its not your
fault" to the person next to them.
3. Tear up the phone books while saying "its not
my fault!", letting the momentum build as you
tear up more books!
4. Cool down by stuffing the paper (your guilt)
into trash bags or by sitting in a quiet place,
discussing the children's feelings.
For Young Children:
Fly Like a Lion
Equipment: Table, bean bags or gym mats for a
soft landing, loud voices, careful supervision.
Talk to the child about power and strength -
discuss people and animals who are powerful and
what that means for them.
2. Let the child climb on the table and jump off
onto a soft landing space. Encourage them to
jump like a powerful animal, with powerful
3. Recognize that this is a great way for
children to take back some of the power they may
feel that they lost during an illness or death,
as well as a way to reach and express deep
the book, Fire in My Heart, Ice in My Veins: A
Journal for Teenagers Experiencing a Loss , by
Enid Samuel Traisman, M.S.W., there are
statements that help teens write about their
feelings during a time of loss.
Sometimes I find myself imagining that if these
things were different, your death might not have
really happened. "
" I wish you could tell me what your death was
like, what really happened. I think you'd say… "
" I can physically feel the pain of your death,
and this is where and how I feel it in my body.
" Here is a drawing of what my pain looks like…"
" This is what I would write on your tombstone
so that everyone who would read it would have an
idea of the person you were. "
" I often wear a mask to hide what I am really
feeling. I do this because…"
" Late at night, when the world is asleep, I am
awake thinking about…"
" Our friends got together and did something
special in your memory…"
" Music helps release feelings; here are some
songs/lyrics that mean a lot to me. "
" A poem that I wrote (or is special)… "
" I think about the meaning of life. Why people
die when they do…"
" This is what helps me find meaning in my pain
over your death… "
more activities for helping children through a
Setting up building blocks and knocking them
a plastic bag with plastic bottles and let the
children kick the bottles, find a safe place to
go and throw
quieter ways of expressing emotions:
Drawing pictures of what makes you mad and
bombarding them with clay
Writing poetry, journals, letters to a friend,
to the president, to the
Sitting and talking or listening to music with
Actions to show you can make a difference:
Create and send thank you cards to the police
and fire rescue workers.
(extra) chores to raise money to send to the Red
Cross (could put a chart in
the refrigerator so kids can check off chores
they've done; could also create a separate piggy bank/place for
money so kids
can physically deposit/see/count it throughout week - and have
something concrete to hand in.
prayers for those hurt and to help those in
songs with family or group or make up a song to
share with others.
up an American flag or make your own flag to
Create "friendship bracelets" - let them pick
their colors for friends or
ideas and tell you what they mean.
Don't listen to hurtful names and jokes - try to
Practice doing nice things for people you meet.
No New Baby by Marilyn Gryte
For siblings dealing with the loss of a brother
or sister who dies before birth. Offers stories,
and guidelines for comfort and support.
When Someone Very Special Dies by Marge
Designed to help children recognize and express
feelings of grief through drawing and coloring
I'll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm
A story about an old and loved dog's death in a
family. Offers a message about remembering the
person or pet you will always love.
Abuelita's Paradise by Carmen Santiago Nodar
A young child's grandmother dies. The child sits
in her grandmother's rocking chair and remembers
the stories she told her about her life in
After Charlotte's Mom Died by Cornelia
A young girls mother's death causes her to feel
sad, mad, and scared. She and her Dad visit a
therapist who helps them acknowledge and express
Death Turns Allie's Family Upside Down by
Bob Baugher, et. al.
Allie the cat watches as her family deals with
the death of a grandmother. Designed to begin a
dialogue with your child about death in a gentle
but realistic way.
Living When a Young Friend Commits Suicide, Or
Even Starts Talking about It by Earl A.
Grollman and Max Malikow
Grief counselor and psychotherapist discuss
grieving a suicide; the first days after a
death, how to tell if someone is suicidal,
returning to school after the death, facing the
future, etc. Designed also for those who work
with adolescents dealing with this issue.
Through and Beyond by Molly Field
13 teenagers share their battles with cancer in
this book with a forward by Senator Ted Kennedy.
Discussions include diagnosis, day to day life,
support systems, and self-esteem. This book is
mainly in the teenagers own words.
Healing Children's Grief: Surviving a Parent's
Death from Cancer by Grace Hyslop Christ
Provides a comprehensive understanding of the
effect of a parent's death on the lives of
surviving family members through moving stories
of 88 families and their 157 children. These
families participated in a parent-guidance
intervention through the terminal illness and
death of one of the parents from cancer. Very
theoretical in the first section with findings
discussed in the second section.
Men Don't Cry…Women Do: Transcending
Gender Stereotypes of Grief by Terry L.
Challenges traditionally held beliefs in the
grief processes of men and women. Emphasizes
individual ways of coping with grief as well as
specific patterns. Speculates on factors that
contribute to grief process including
personality, culture, etc.
Talking With Children About Loss by T. Berry
Words, strategies, and wisdom to help children
cope with death, divorce, and other difficult
issues. Uses stories and analysis as examples.
Also discusses age appropriate responses to
children's questions and concerns.
Bereaved Children and Teens by Earl A.
A support guide for parents and
professionals/volunteers seeking to help
children cope with the death of someone they
know. Discusses among other things, different
religious customs and beliefs about death, and
how to tell if a grieving child needs
The Helper's Journey by Dale G. Larson
Discusses working with people facing grief,
loss, and life-threatening illnesses. A central
goal of the book is to provide opportunities for
the reader to compare their inner lives as
helpers with those of fellow helpers who can
become valued teachers. Intended for volunteers,
social workers, counselors, etc.
Helping Adults With Mental Retardation Grieve A
Death Loss by Charlene Luchterhand, et. al.
Discusses specific situation of helping family
members and volunteers address grief issues with
the mentally challenged population. Provides
guidelines for support as well as general
information about the grief process.
Parent's Guide for Suicidal and Depressed Teens
by Kate Williams
Help for recognizing if a child/teen is in
crisis and what to do about it. How to deal with
adolescent issues, ranging from depression to
feelings such as shame and inadequacy. Uses
authors personal experience with her daughter as
Guiding Your Child Through Grief by Mary Ann
Emswiler, et. al.
Guide by the founders of the New England Center
for Loss and Transition. Offers advice to help a
child grieving the death of a parent or sibling.
Based on their experience as counselors- and
also as parents of grieving children. Discusses
changes in family dynamics, ways to communicate,
how to cope during holidays, etc.
The Courage to Grieve by Judy Tatelbaum
Creative living, recovery, & growth through
grief. Contains reasonable suggestions for
handling grief with courage. Author uses
personal examples from her life to illustrate
Sarah's Journey by Alan D. Wolfelt
One child's experience with the death of her
father resulting from a car accident. Based on
the belief that children mourn in their own ways
and need the love and support of grown-ups who
care about them. Describes Sarah's grief
experience and offers counsel for adults who
would like to help grieving children.
Never Too Young to Know by Phyllis Rolfe
Draws on a collection of life stories from
parents and children to explore the experience
of death as human loss and a process of
potential growth. Weaves scholarly research with
insights of the real experts- bereaved children
Night Falls Fast by Kay Redfield Jamison
Understanding suicide through memoir of authors
experience of manic-depression and suicide
attempt. Uses both scientific exploration of
subject as well as personal essays about
individual suicides. Helps to better recognize
persons at risk, as well as to understand the
tiny boat at sea by Izetta Smith
How to help children who have a parent diagnosed
with cancer. Discusses principles to live by as
well as tasks facing children when responding to
a cancer diagnosis in a parent. The word "tasks"
is meant to accentuate the active nature of the
grief process and an indication of the tone of
My Grandfather's Blessings by Rachel Naomi
Stories of strength, refuge, and belonging that
dispel the common myth of serving others as
sacrifice and brings the power to strengthen and
celebrate life around us within reach for
everyone. Based in part on author's relationship
with her grandfather.
The Tiny One by Eliza Minot
A story about an eight year old who loses her
mother in a car accident. She deals with her
feelings of loss - and at the same time tries to
hold on to her mother- by remembering in great
microscopic detail everything about the day her
mother died. By doing this, she hopes to make
some kind of sense out of her death, and at the
same time figure out how she is going to go on
with her life.
A wonderful true story of a courageous Maine
woman's fight against breast cancer. Book is
comprised of e-mail messages from friends and
family sent to her and her family during her
illness and after her death. Her husband and
oldest son constructed a website dedicated to
keeping everyone informed about how she was
doing- and it blossomed into a treasury of
thoughts and feelings from around the world. A
moving story of one woman's celebration of life
Encourage your children to talk and express all
of their feelings in ways that make them feel
honored and valued. Share your feelings openly,
honestly, and calmly. Remember, love really
The Center for Grieving Children