Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Grieving Children: Part 2 The Memory Box Condolence Gift

Do children grieve? 

Punk Bird by Suzy St.John
Yes, of course. Children and teens have complex feelings and reactions to crises and changes. Children will grieve the loss of a family member by death or divorce, the loss of a friend, a pet, even a treasured toy.  This post is the second in a series on understanding--and effectively supporting--children who are mourning a death. Are you as shocked as I, to read: 

"One in 10 children under the age of 18 will experience the death of a parent. In Michigan, that statistic represents 117,000 children grieving a parent’s death, while thousands more grieve the death of a sibling or other loved one."

[Source: Ele's Place and U.S. Census Bureau]

 One of the fears commonly expressed by grieving children is about forgetting their loved one.
If I forget her, it will be like she never existed. Once forgotten, the heart will have a cold, dark and empty corner; it is a dreadful prospect for anyone, at any age.

Images, mementos, and memories

provide an important assurance and comfort.

An important step in grief work, especially for children, is to learn a new way to "maintain a connection to the people who were important in their life." At Ele's Place, a Healing Center for Grieving Children and Teens in Michigan, many participants decorate wooden [or other] boxes to hold treasured memories.

Simple beginnings for a memory box; click this link for instructions.
A Memory Box (with the supplies to decorate it) can make a wonderful condolence gift.  In addition to a blank box, supplies may include:
  • markers and paint
  • craft paper
  • glue
  • beads and letters
  • stickers
  • fabric and trims

Source:  see footnote 1
Source:  see footnote 2

Source:  see footnote 3

Any art therapist will tell you:  when children are creative, they are expressing--and processing, feelings. Encouraging them to do this--and providing resources, is very empowering during an otherwise powerless time.

Your Memory Box Condolence Gift should include a note with an explanation of the materials, and a few supportive thoughts.

Explanation of the materials:  You have many wonderful memories of [name or relationship,] and they are treasures! With these supplies, you can make a Memory Box to keep those treasures safe.

Supportive thoughts:

  • Dear Jonah, my favorite memory with your Mom was going canoeing... If I find a picture, will you put it in your Memory Box?
  • Dear Susan, your Dad dying is probably the hardest thing in your life. I can't make it hurt less, but I can help you hold his wonderful memory close. If you want to, we can make the boxes next Saturday!
I want to thank my friend, artist, Suzy St. John for permission to use her amazing art. I chose her painting, PUNK BIRD for this post because its black background reminds me that life circumstances can sometimes be very dark. With the support of caring people (you!) we find the strength, the wings, the spirit to soar above difficult times. 

Share this post... and thanks for caring!

FOOTNOTES:  memory box image sources:

  1. http://babyccinokids.com/blog/2010/06/03/mosaic-memory-box-travel-with-kids-part-ii/
  2. http://www.obseussed.com/2012/01/teacher-appreciation-ideas-memory-box.html
  3. http://play2grow.co.za/blog/2011/05/kites-charity-uk-how-do-children-cope-with-the-death-of-a-loved-one-part-2

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