Each year the calendar flips from May to June and we suddenly find ourselves in Summer. A season marked by hot sunny days, new rhythms, and scrambling to fill children’s days with activities. Summertime can create unique challenges for children who have experienced a death. Grieving children and their caregivers alike, may find themselves without familiar routines, the support of schools, and overwhelmed by their grief.
As you begin to lean into summer here are few ideas for you to provide support for the grieving children in your life.
Routine and Consistency
The transition to new daily routines paired with grief may leave both children and caregivers feeling overwhelmed. Grieving children may struggle with insecurity surrounding control over their environment, schedules, and decisions being made without their input.
Child development experts have found that children thrive with routine, and this is especially true for children who are grieving. Knowing what to expect from day to day is an important way create a sense of safety and stability. Ensuring children understand how their day is structured, what they will be doing, and who will be with them provides a sense of security.
Consider setting up your child’s day to accommodate both what needs to be accomplished and their interests. Take time to listen to your child by allowing them to share their hopes and concerns with you. By including your child in these discussions and taking their ideas into consideration you are communicating that you value them and you build connection.
Space for Grief
Grief takes up space in a child’s mind, body, and heart. Grief can present as emotions, physical reactions, and behaviors. It is important to take the opportunity to set aside time and space for children to reflect on their grief. Creating intentional time to check in with your child about their grief provides an opportunity for them to share their experiences, learn about grief, and feel connected to their person who died.
There are many ways to create opportunities for connection. By providing children the opportunity to play, be physically active, or participate in an activity you can create an atmosphere for conversation and questions. Ask yourself what your child enjoys and consider one of the following suggestions:
Spend time outdoors
Take a walk or bike ride
Go to a favorite restaurant or ice cream spot
Have a game night
Do a craft (make memory box or decorate a picture frame)
Read a book or watch a movie with themes of grief and loss
Look at old pictures or home movies
Visit the cemetery
Opportunities for Community and Support
Summer might be the perfect time for your family to try out a grief support group or a summer camp that supports grieving children. Participating in these types of opportunities allows children to be with other children who have also experienced a death, learn about grief, and gain tools to help them cope.
Unity Hospice’s Generations – Hope for Grieving Families
Unity is proud to offer Generations as a safe place for children and families in Northeastern Wisconsin to explore and share their grief experience. At Generations, activities and topics are tailored to children and teens aged 4-18. An adult group meets concurrently giving caregivers the opportunity share their grief experience. Groups are facilitated by Unity’s licensed professional counselors and social workers along with trained volunteers. Generations is held on the second Thursday of the month in July and August. Thanks to the generosity of our donors Unity’s Grief Support Services are available to the community free of charge. For more information or to register for Generations, call Unity at (920) 338-1111.
UWGB Camp Lloyd
Camp Lloyd is a weeklong camp for grieving children (grades 2 – 9) who have experienced a death. Held on the beautiful University of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus July 6 – 10, 2021, camp is filled with fun activities such as arts and crafts, music, games, and hiking. It is also a time for campers to explore their own experiences of grief, find support from each other, and realize that their feelings are normal. The Camp Lloyd staff consists of professional grief counselors and trained student interns from the UW-Green Bay. For further information and registration please visit https://www.uwgb.edu/camp-lloyd/.
Looking for additional organizations that provide grief support for children visit the National Alliance for Grieving Children website for further information at https://childrengrieve.org/find-support.
Be Kind to Yourself
Lastly, be kind to yourself. Adults and caregivers often focus their energy into supporting their grieving child. Remember to take the time to care for yourself and honor your own grief. Children are better able to cope with grief when they witness the adults in their life sharing their grief and coping in healthy ways. Take the time for self-care and, perhaps, find grief support for yourself.
If you found this information helpful, please share it with your network and community.