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PLAY IS THE GRIEF WORK OF A CHILD

Finger paint, clay, bottles of bubbles, colored sand, crayons and construction paper await the hands of a child or teen in one of our groups. Even a trunk of dress up clothes and sunglasses are among the supplies in our closet. [The Austin Center for Grief & Loss] offers children myriad of ways to express their thoughts and feelings on any given group night.

Some might think a grief group for children would be terribly sad. In fact, there is a lot of laughter, anxious giggling, some expressions of anger, and yes, there are also tears at times. Sunglasses and a floppy hat can help the child escape into a pretend character where it’s safe to express their sadness. Similarly a puppet or a story created in sand can offer the same protection for sharing a difficult feeling.

Recently, a session focusing on the experience of their loved ones’ funeral became an occasion for great fun as the children decorated the pretend casket with silk flowers. It was in this safe place that questions too sensitive to ask a grieving parent were asked. A child who didn’t attend her loved one’s funeral got a chance to say “goodbye.”

Teens discover in group that their thoughts and feelings aren’t really so different than others. They talk about the ways they are coping, what works and what doesn’t work so well. They talk about how hard it is to be a teen who is grieving while trying to grow up at the same time.

Physical activity is a part of almost all kids groups at [ACGL]. Grieving children are often anxious and need the outlet of movement. Relay races and obstacle courses become metaphors for various aspects of the grief journey and offer the children the opportunity to release the tension and anxiety carried in their grief.

Our groups for children offer a playful approach to serious problems utilizing the strength of each child and their ability to laugh and play.


Copyright 2012 The Austin Center for Grief & Loss
www.austingrief.org