Grief Support in a Classroom


This morning I worked with an elementary class that is coping with the recent loss of a peer

We started the session off with a choice of a Beanie Baby as a comfort item. The class was filled with laughter and tiny voices as they shared their Beanie Baby names and “ their ancient birthdates, 1996”. 

I then did some illness education on what caused their friend to become sick and die. There were lots of questions, and misconceptions were clarified.

The students then began to describe their friend and shared some wonderful memories. We wrote them down on the smart board. Some of the ones that stood out were “determined, courageous, kind, hilarious, and great friend.” 

We talked about grief and what that was. Kids raised their hands when they identified with some of those big emotions. This helped them to feel validated and normalized that they weren’t the only ones experiencing it.
I then facilitated a painting memory-making rock activity. The kids came up with such creative ways to honor their friend.

Their classmate was a treasure collector. He had rocks, seashells, and character figurines. His wonderful family allowed his classmates to choose some of these items as a keepsake. This part of the session made my heart just melt. They carefully found the items that they wanted and shared them with each other.

We wrapped up our session by coming up with coping ideas for their grief. We added them to the smart board. I also provided the class with a Worry Deposit Box.

I appreciate the love and support that this school provides to its students and families. They knew how important it was to address their grief and find a supportive space to express it.

Additional Resources

Grief and Loss: A Guide for Caregivers 

Helping My Preschooler Cope with Grief and Loss

Child Life Specialists Take on Oprah’s Favorite Things

It was an honor to be part of the Wonders & Worries podcast last week with Julie May.

Our second season closes with a very special guest. In this podcast, we are joined by Shani Thornton, CCLS as she collaborates to share a Child Life Specialist’s take on Oprah’s Favorite Things. Resources in the community, favorite calming techniques, the best things about supporting kids… it’s all in there.

Click Here to take a listen 

The Role of Child Life Specialists in Community Settings

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While the genesis of the Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) is in the healthcare setting, the theory and practice of child life have been successfully applied to environments outside of the healthcare field. The interest and pursuit of child life roles in non-healthcare settings have increasingly become of interest to students and professionals; however, further study is required to understand the various challenges and opportunities.

The Role of Child Life Specialists in Community Settings serves as an innovative guide for those interested in pursuing child life in diverse settings with the education and credentials received through their child life certification and addresses issues the field currently faces related to saturation of the field, burn out, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. The book also serves as a catalyst to push the profession as a whole beyond its current healthcare boundaries. Covering topics such as grief, addiction, disaster relief, and family well-being, this major reference work is ideal for psychologists, medical professionals, nurses, policymakers, government officials, researchers, scholars, academicians, practitioners, instructors, and students.

I’m honored to have contributed to Chapter 16 of this book, which covers private practice. My co-author, Dr. Korie Leigh, and I put our heart and soul into this.

Many seasoned child life specialists begin to think about expanding their role to serve different pediatric populations and/or settings. This chapter will focus on child life specialists building and sustaining a private practice within the community. Topics will include the need for service, executing a business plan, building community partnerships, and staying within the ethical and professional boundaries of a Certified Child Life Specialist. Additionally, case studies that describe assessments, preparation, developmental explanations, interventions, expressive arts, and play are included. Examples of business documents to help guide child life specialists interested in starting a private practice within their community are also included.

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