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Valencia Family Resource Library Guide: Healing Activities

Welcome

Healing Activities

These activities can be done independently or together. Follow your instincts when determining when to participate individually or as a family. While there may be suggestions for ages that are most appropriate for each activity, do not let this information stop you from using the activity if you know it’s the right one for your family. 

Click here to view Books for Coping with Death of a Loved One

Make a Memory Book

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Suggested Activity Materials

  • Stickers
    • Especially hearts, stars, and happy faces
  • Tissue paper
  • Markers
  • Colored pencils
  • Cardstock
  • Glue
  • Stamps and a stamp pad, especially individual letters
  • Scrapbook paper
  • Scissors that cut interesting edges
  • Ribbon scraps

These days our phones are filled with pictures along with our social media sites. Printing these photos and taking the time to make an album in memory of your loved one will spark discussion and creativity while creating a memento your family can use to remember your loved one or simply to visit when they feel sad and miss your loved one.

Beyond the photos you can include:

  • Mementos from times together, such as ticket stubs, receipts, cards, etc.
  • Written poems, stories, or memories
  • Any samples of the loved one’s handwriting from grocery lists, post-it notes, etc.
  • Drawings of your loved one, or of memories or funny stories you shared 

Create a Grieving Kit

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This activity is one for a parent to create for the child. Put together a portable box filled with a variety of soothing items for your child to use to manage their feelings during the grieving process.

Some examples are as follows:

  • Silly putty or a squeeze toy for when they’re angry
  • A balloon to blow up when they need to let out a lot of air at once
  • Bubbles for when they need to practice carefully inhaling and exhaling
  • Tissues for when they need to cry
  • A special item from your loved one for remembering them and providing comfort
  • Fidget items to assist with self regulation when anxious, distracted, or worried
  • A card or note to remind your child how much you love them

Relive Good Times

You or your child may have a particular activity you used to enjoy doing with your loved one who has died. When you’re missing them, you can always dive into that activity together and share stories. Make a favorite dish, take a walk in a favorite place, play a board game, or do anything that was especially pleasurable for your loved one.  

Participate in a Memorial Service

Attending the memorial service held for your loved one may be something your child wishes to participate in. It is up to your family to determine whether your child is ready for this activity. Listening to them and watching their progression through the grieving process will give you clues.

If your child is not ready for this, you can always choose to hold a ceremony of your own for you and your child. Allow them to assist in planning such a service with you; this will provide a way for your child to assist in honoring your loved one.

Some activities you may want to suggest to your child include the following:

  • Telling stories about your loved one
  • Reciting a poem
  • Planting a plant in their honor
  • Playing music or a favorite song
  • If there is a grave site, you may also choose to visit it after you’ve completed your family’s memorial service 

Get Planting

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Creating a physical space of beauty to honor your loved one can provide your child with a place to visit to remember them.

Are there plants that were significant to your relationship? A particular tree, bush, or flower you have memories of enjoying with them?

You can also relate to your child that caring for this new plant or garden is a way to continue their love for whoever has passed. 

Start a Journal

Suggested Activity Materials

  • Premade journal/s or notebook/s 

or

  • DIY journal supplies such as:
    • Stapler
    • Box of staples
    • Sheets of paper for inner pages
    • Sheet of cardstock for journal cover
  • Writing utensil/s 

If you do not have these supplies available, you can download a journal app on your smartphone, tablet, or iPad. 

Expressing feelings reflective of the grieving process as well as thoughts about death and artwork can be very helpful for children who sometimes have a hard time getting the right words out. Keeping a journal can help them express themselves privately.

Prompts are questions that your child can answer, as well as incomplete sentences the child can finish. With older children who are experiencing difficulty sharing their feelings, you may be able to get them started by showing them a photo of them and their loved one. Camilleri (2007) suggests writing prompts such as:

  • “Write a journal entry as yourself at the time of this picture.
    • Example: “I am Catherine. I am 8 years old and I feel…” 
  • “Write a letter you would have liked to receive from someone in the picture.
    • Example: “Dear Catherine...”
  • They can also write a journal entry from the other person in the photo or simply tell the story of the day the photo was taken. 

Watercolor Feelings

Suggested Activity Materials

  • Watercolor paint set
  • Multiple paint brushes of different styles
  • Paper 

Mixing watercolors together allows your child to create an image that matches their feelings at that moment. This project is about process rather than creating a finished product. The process can be soothing as the child mixes the paints, and it can also be emotional. Allowing kids to explore what color matches their current mood has no right or wrong answer. Give yourself and your child the opportunity to explore their feelings verbally while you paint together. 

Write a Letter

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Suggested Activity Materials 

  • Envelopes
  • Something to write on, such as:
    • Cards
    • Paper
    • Postcards
    • Construction paper
    • Writing utensils
    • Stationery paper 
  • Writing utensils

Sometimes when people die we wish we could have one more conversation with them, especially during the Bargaining stage of grief. To help get these feelings out, you can write a letter or a card to your loved one who has died letting them know thoughts or feelings you wish you had been able to express before they died.

If children are too young to write, they can dictate their message to you, and you can do the writing for them. 

Splat!

Suggested Activity Materials

  • 2-4 "splattable" materials such as
    • Tomatoes
    • Slime
    • Water balloons

This activity is suggested by Camilleri as helpful when kids don’t feel like talking (Camilleri, 2007). You already know that some children express their emotions verbally, and others do better expressing their emotions in a physical way.

Find a nice flat wall that you can throw things against, then explain that you’re going to say something that makes you angry each time you throw a fake object that splats against the wall. You can go first and show your child how it’s done -- throw your tomato and shout out something that’s making you mad. Let your child take a turn, then pick up more tomatoes and go again!

If the mood starts to lighten, you can switch things up and start shouting things that make you happy. You can use this when your child is in the Anger stage of the grieving process, or any time they need to express themselves or feel out of control. 

Resources

Camilleri, V. A. (2007). Healing the Inner City Child : Creative Arts Therapies with Atrisk Youth. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

The Healing Library

All material in these activities has been obtained from THE HEALING LIBRARY: The Death of a Loved One, unless otherwise noted.

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