Learning how to recover from grief isn’t something most people wake up wanting to do. Many people don’t even know that their circumstances align with the concept of what grief and bereavement are until they join an online grief support group.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Is the Purpose of a Grief Support Group Activity?
- Grief Support Group Activities for Adults
- Grief Support Group Activities for Teenagers
- Grief Support Group Activities for Kids
Grief support groups, both in-person and online, offer an opportunity for bereaved individuals to come together and find a solution for their painful feelings and emotions resulting from a significant loss in their lives.
Every grief support group is different, but many share the same goals of getting their members through the pain and sorrow of experiencing loss. Like-minded people come together to learn about what grief is and how to cope with it.
What Is the Purpose of a Grief Support Group Activity?
Grief support group activities help people successfully deal with grief while bringing awareness to the roots of their pain and sorrow. Bereaved individuals may be good at expressing how they feel, but they might not know why they’re feeling the way they are. When they engage in grief group activities, they get to know themselves better while processing their grief reactions.
No one else but you can know why you feel the way you do. A professional grief counselor or therapist can gauge your grief responses based on research and their experiences with their clients, but no one knows exactly how you feel. Grief group activities help lend a voice to your thoughts and feelings. They allow you to explore past traumas that may be contributing to your current grief.
Many grief resources are available for those interested in either participating in or starting a grief support group. Below, you’ll find various grief-recovery activities to help people deal with loss at any age.
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Grief Support Group Activities for Adults
Grief support group activities aimed at adults take everything that life and experience have taught us and force us to use confront our sad, painful, and negative feelings. Grief recovery is much more than rationalizing how you're feeling. It's about discovering new ways of responding to loss and giving new meaning to life after the death of a loved one.
The group activity ideas below offer you new skills in dealing with your grief directly. Still, they will require you to fully engage and open yourself up to new experiences that take willingness and courage.
1. Guided journaling
Participating in your own recovery helps you to understand better what’s underneath the surface of your grief. Moderators are usually in charge of ensuring that guided journaling group sessions start and stop at a specified time. The moderator will give you a few journaling prompts or questions to get your thoughts in motion and encourage you to write.
Some people participating in this activity will choose to keep their answers to themselves. Others will benefit from sharing their thoughts aloud and getting feedback from other members.
2. Potluck dinner
Many people who are grieving the loss of a loved one or another type of profound loss tend to shy away from the people they love. Instead of seeking help, they isolate themselves as they try and cope with their grief.
Because of the self-isolation and all of the negative feelings associated with suffering, bereaved individuals can lose themselves in their grief. They forget how to socialize and interact with others. In some instances, they even feel guilty for feeling joy and happiness. Grief group potluck dinners are an excellent way for grieving individuals to get back out there and learn to live again after loss.
3. Nature walks
Walking out in nature can be a very therapeutic grief group activity to participate in. There’s a healing element and transformative nature to grief when connecting with the outdoors, whether it’s done alone or in a group setting.
When you take your grief outdoors, you force yourself to reconnect to the Earth and its tranquility. The sounds of nature, like running water or leaves rustling, have a calming effect on the soul. The added benefit of joining a group for a nature walk is the opportunity for socialization.
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Grief Support Group Activities for Teenagers
Teenagers have their own set of unique needs when grieving. Their grief tends to be a bit more complex as they’re also dealing with teenage angst and hormonal and biological changes taking place within.
Many teens prefer to be alone in their grief. They retreat within themselves where they feel they’re in a safe space. Getting them to come out of their shell can be challenging, so choosing suitable activities is crucial to healing their grief.
4. Letter writing
Teens can find grief challenging to express, especially if feelings of anger and regret consume them. To facilitate the identification and release of grief-related emotions:
- Ask teens to sit and write a letter to their loved one that died or address the type of loss they’ve suffered.
- Give them advice on how to get started writing the letter, but then give them the necessary leeway to explore their feelings.
- Set a time limit for writing to allow room for discussion.
- Ask participants to share their feelings with other group members if they’re comfortable doing so.
5. Forgiveness circle
Participants in a forgiveness circle sit in chairs arranged in a circle. Each person takes the time to express their feelings of regret about their deceased loved one or toward the person who caused them grief. Explain to them that everyone goes through feelings of shame, remorse, and resentment as part of the grieving process.
Teach them that to release those feelings, we must first learn to forgive ourselves to forgive others. Go around the room, asking each participant to share with the group what they forgive themselves for and what they’d like to forgive their loved one for.
6. Memorializing activity
After several group sessions, teens should better understand grief and process their feelings and emotions. They will feel more confident sharing their stories of grief and sorrow and any regrets attached to their situations. By now, they should be ready to take their grief and turn it into something more positive by encouraging them to think of ways to honor the memory of their deceased loved one.
Be prepared with a table full of arts and crafts supplies and allow each participant freedom of expression, guiding them whenever needed. They can put together memory books, write poems, create art, or whatever they feel is the best expression of their grief while honoring their loved ones.
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Grief Support Group Activities for Kids
Children need extra guidance when participating in grief group activities just by the sheer nature of their age and the way they process information. Too much too soon can overwhelm them, and they may not respond well as a result.
When dealing with kids and grief, it’s better to progress through activities in a way that attaches to fun and games, so they’re more likely to want to participate. Younger children don’t fully understand the concept of grief, although they can and do grieve their losses. Here are some simple yet fun and meaningful activities for younger children to participate in.
7. Where are you?
Young children have different beliefs about what happens to a person after they die. Many of their ideas stem from what their parents or religion has taught them about life and death.
In this exercise, have each child take a box of crayons and some plain white paper and ask them to draw a picture of their loved one who died and where they are right now. Encourage them to create whatever image they see in their head without worrying about being wrong.
After each child has drawn their picture, ask them to share it with the group while describing who’s in it and where they are now. This exercise does not require the facilitator to correct a child’s thoughts on the afterlife.
8. Grief storytime
During individual sessions or at the beginning or end of each session, set aside some time to engage younger children in grief storytime. An excellent way of getting them to share their feelings and emotions is by asking them to finish the sentence that you’ve read from a children’s book on grief and bereavement.
You can also have them participate in the storytelling by encouraging them to add twists and turns to the story in the book based on their personal experiences with grief. Storytime is a creative way for children to express their sorrow and learn how to communicate their feelings with others in a healthy way.
9. The color of my grief
Children can learn to express themselves through the use of color. Learning to associate specific colors with how they’re feeling can help younger children better express themselves when they lack the right words to do so.
One of the most common exercises for bereaved children is the Color Your Heart activity. This one can easily be adapted to younger children by first teaching them to associate the colors of the rainbow with particular expressions of emotion.
For example, you can teach them the more commonly accepted interpretations of colors and ask them to draw a picture of themselves and then color it according to how they feel.
- Blue - Calm, peaceful, heavenly
- Red - Angry, want to be left alone
- Yellow - Happy, joyful, hopeful
- Green - Envy, jealous of other’s relationships
- Black - Profound sadness, constantly crying, not being able to cry
Activities that Help You Grieve Together
Grief support groups can be healing and therapeutic when administered consistently and with compassion for each member’s grief experience. Participating in group sessions isn’t easy for everyone and may take some time to get used to publicly sharing grief’s most profound and darkest emotions. Allow each member to work their way up to the comfort level they’re most at ease without forcing them to share or participate.