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

Sandwiched Series: Helping Teens Cope

“Sandwiched” is a series that addresses the specific challenges “Sandwich Generation” caregivers face. Del Oro Caregiver Resource Center has teamed up with Certified Child Life Specialist, Shani Thornton, MS to facilitate these FREE workshops.

Learn how to:

  • Engage in self-care

  • Foster healthy attachments at home

  • Ease children’s fear and anxiety related to COVID-19

  • Help children understand the disease progression of a sick or disabled loved one

  • Find support and develop coping strategies in a new world of social distancing

This week is Session 4: Helping Teens Cope, 12/10/20, 5pmPST.

Register Here Today 

Check out our tip video with content related to this week’s topic.

Click here for more information

Using Art to Support Children Coping with Illness

Guest Blogger, Caroline Robins at Kids & Art

Kids & Art Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides art experiences for families touched by pediatric cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, to heal, empower, encourage, and create memorable experiences.

Due to COVID, our weekly hospital programs at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and Stanford Children’s Hospital were put on hold in March 2020 as were our monthly destination workshops at creative venues. We took our 10 years of experience and our creative resources to be there for our families when they needed us most by creating virtual art workshops as well as amazing art lessons on youtube, to continue healing through the arts. Life was challenging enough for immunocompromised children before COVID. It is even more important to give them access to our workshops now so they can engage, connect, and create with others.

Check out our video about our COVID Response

As our Kids & Art researcher Dawn Linhardt has shared, research has shown that supportive services and therapies such as Kids & Art have been shown to affect stress as demonstrated through decreases in cortisol levels. These interventions are low cost and based on the research have the potential to decrease rates of readmission due to secondary infections.

Stress-relieving interventions such as art are becoming the standard in cancer care within integrative medicine. Preliminary evaluation of data from a study that includes Kids & Art families indicates that the physical symptoms and isolation associated with cancer treatment has a negative effect on the quality of life. We believe that supporting services like ours have the potential to alleviate stress and address the issues of isolation and ultimately improve the quality of life measurements.

Kids & Art is staying true to our mission to always be there for families wherever they are in their treatment. We are delighted to welcome patient families from other states including Alaska, Maryland, Michigan, and Florida as well as our home state of California. Visit our website for more details and a link to register.

What do our workshops include? Along with guided art projects we also include virtual tours of artists’ studios and galleries and invited guest artists. The workshops provide a space for creativity, fun, and stress relief and they bring a sense of togetherness for all ages in a supportive environment.

We have also started a larger Conversation in Improving the Quality of Care by inviting experts from the Art + Health + Innovation space. We have made all these conversations available for free on our YouTube playlist.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Related Articles

Bringing Play to Chronically Ill Children During a Pandemic 

Supporting Children and Teens During COVID-19