Grief affects everyone at some point in life, and is a natural reaction to loss. No matter what you do to try and shelter yourself from negative experiences - loss, death, and grief follows us all.
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Inevitably, we'll all be affected by it, and when it happens to you, you’ll need to learn how to best cope with your pain and sorrow. In learning how grief therapy works, we first begin by exploring the differences between grief counseling and grief therapy. It helps you to understand the differences and benefits of each type of therapy.
Grief counseling aims at helping you to better understand and cope with your physical, emotional, and psychological reactions to loss. There are many different therapies that grief counselors employ in helping you get through your grief and move on with your life after loss.
A popular method used is talk therapy where you sit and discuss your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Grief therapy, on the other hand, employs a more task-oriented, hands-on approach to the overall healing sessions. These activities serve to further enhance talk therapy sessions.
Grief and Loss Activity Ideas for Adults
One way that counselors introduce the therapeutic healing of grief is through the use of the “five stages of grief” model introduced by the famed psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. During your sessions, you should expect to talk about the stages of grief, how to recognize the different stages as you go through your own grief journey, and the expected outcomes and resolution at each stage.
Once you become familiar with these stages, a therapist may recommend certain tasks or activities to complete that will help you with your healing process. Below, you’ll find some examples of grief activities you can try at home:
If you’re facing challenges in coping with your grief, you might consider calling on your social circle for a little added support and encouragement. Sometimes when you’re grieving, the weight of your worries may be too heavy a burden for you to carry alone. The loving support and encouragement of your friends and loved ones may be what you need to help you deal with your pain and sorrow.
Just knowing that your loved ones are there can give you the confidence to move ahead in your healing process. You can call on them to join you in certain grief rituals that will help you find the needed closure you may be needing. The goal of socialization is that you stay connected so that you never grieve alone.
2. Stages of grief worksheets
Grief worksheets combine different activities, exercises, and tasks to help you heal. Through the use of worksheets, you’ll learn about the grieving process, what’s normal and what isn’t, and specific exercises to help you address your grief.
They detail the five stages of grief, what you should expect at each stage, how to cope with your grief, pain and suffering at each level, and how to progress from one stage to the next. These worksheets can be found free online through various grief support websites, or at most grief counselors’ offices.
3. Join a support group
The internet has made it easy to join online grief support groups so that you can get to talking about your loss with other individuals who may be facing a similar type of loss.
This is a great way to engage in conversation, share with others what you’re feeling, and get a different perspective of what others are doing to cope with their loss.
When worksheets and support groups aren't enough to help you understand your grief, try reading some books on grief for further information on what you can expect as you mourn your loss. Understanding your grief will help you figure out which strategies might work best for you, and which ones do not resonate with your style and needs.
Meditation on grief is taking time to reflect in quiet solitude not only about your loss, but about how you’re feeling as a result of that loss. This is a time for you to listen to your heart, and not analyze the whys and hows leading up to your loss.
Meditation can be done anywhere and at any time. You don’t need any special equipment or tools like a yoga mat or incense. All you need is a comfortable spot to sit or walk.
Rituals that help you maintain a connection to your loved one who has died can help you better cope with your loss.
There are rituals of continuity that you can establish to continue the bond with your loved one. This may include saying good morning and good night to begin and end your day, writing letters, and talking out loud to them.
Grief and Loss Activity Ideas for Children
Children grieve in similar ways to adults. One of the biggest differences is in how young children process death and how they cope with their grief. It may be that your child is too young to fully grasp the concept of death and dying, or they may not yet understand how to grieve. Some activities that they can take part in will help them to better understand death and how they’re feeling as a result of having lost their loved one.
Children’s activities are usually designed to tell a story or give information in small doses so that they don’t become overwhelmed. Special care should be taken with children to help them learn the best way to cope with their grief without adding to their confusion.
7. Grief workbook
A grief workbook can help a child learn about the concepts of grief through the use of grief activities specifically designed to help a young person deal with their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
These workbooks are easy to use and encourage children to reflect on their emotions and discuss their feelings with their therapist, school counselor, or other trusted adult.
8. Children’s books about death and grief
There are many children’s books on the market that help a child learn about grief, death, loss, and mourning at any age. If your child is old enough to read on their own, offer them a selection of books, or make a special trip to your local library or bookstore so that they can choose their own.
Allow them the freedom and flexibility of reading whenever they’re ready to find out more information on the grief process. Never force a young child to participate in any activity that they may not be ready for. Give them the opportunity to ask questions and find out more information whenever they’re ready to learn more.
9. Memory bracelets
Setting some time aside to create positive memories of the child’s lost loved one will help them process their grief in a healthy manner.
Encourage the use of symbols and “transitional” objects such as jewelry to tell a story about their deceased loved one. You may want to use special beads or charms that reflect their loved one’s hobbies, personality traits, or unique features to make a memory bracelet of them. This jewelry can also be worn whenever they want to feel closer to their loved one.
10. Arts and crafts
Creative artistic expressions of grief can help a child release their feelings and emotions in a fun and creative way.
You can encourage them to draw a picture of their lost loved one, paint a scene depicting their favorite memory of them, or create a collage of special memories of them together. You can also encourage them to express through art their perfect goodbye.
11. Write a goodbye letter
Helping a child write a goodbye letter to release final messages and thoughts to their loved one provides therapeutic release of bottled up sentiments that they may have been unable to express earlier.
It gives them a chance to “talk to” their loved one and tell them all the things they were unable to say before they died. A letter also helps them say their final goodbyes in case of a sudden or accidental death.
12. Healing heart activity
A healing heart activity for grief and loss helps a child better understand their heartache and pain. This activity is a popular one with many grief therapists in helping children come to terms with their loss. Consider making this a bonding activity between trusted adults and the child to encourage an open discussion of their feelings and emotions.
The healing heart can be made of any material like fabric or construction paper. Begin by making a big heart, cutting it apart, and having your child draw or write on it whatever they feel like that is related to their grief and loss. Then encourage them to put it together like a puzzle with band-aids. When they’re finished with it, they can put it up on their bedroom wall or another special place that is meaningful to them.
Activities That Heal
Supporting those grieving the loss of a loved one through therapeutic activities encourages them to heal on their terms. You may never “get over” your grief, but over time you’ll learn to manage and cope with it so that you can move on with your life.
Sometimes it’s a fine line between grief and healing. Grieving is more than strictly the emotional manifestations, it’s mourning all of your losses as a result of the death of your loved one. Healing will eventually take place, one day at a time.