Grief and loss is a different experience for everyone. When talking about grief in children it can present itself in a variety of ways. The age of the child can contribute to an even wider range of ways that grief manifests itself.
Processing Grief in Children
Children may process their own grief differently than what you expect. Some children want to live up to real or perceived expectations of them such as being strong. If this is the case they may hold back tears or talk about their own feelings because they do not want their parents or other loved ones to be affected.
Children communicate discomfort behaviorally
Children may struggle to process and understand their own grief. Anyone who has children or has worked with children will likely be aware of the ways that a child’s discomfort manifests. It may be whining, attention seeking, being clingy, or maybe wanting to watch the same movies over and over. These behaviors often are children’s way of expressing a need because they do not truly know how to recognize or ask for help.
It’s my grief and I’ll cry if I want to
When children’s symptoms of discomfort manifest behaviorally we as parents and caregivers often teach them to communicate verbally. We say, “use your words”, for some this works wonders and kids soon learn to communicate their feelings. Oh, but it’s not always that easy….is it parents? No matter how much we tell them to use their words they often resort back to whining, hitting, crying and clinging.
Using Art for Grief Support in Children
Grief in children can manifest in many ways. Using art as a medium is a beneficial way to help children process grief.
Here are a few ways that art can help children process and express their grief
- Doing art doesn’t require talking. A lot of kids get overwhelmed with a lot of questions. Many children don’t have the capacity to understand or explain their feelings. Art can give children the opportunity to express grief through colors, pictures and creativity.
- Creating something in memory of the person who dies can give children a feeling of control. When children grieve and they see the adults around them grieve they often feel helpless. Creating a memory box, a sculpture or a painting in memory of their loved one can help them feel that they are contributing to the remembrance of the deceased.
- Creating art to remember the one who died also will help them understand that even though they are gone we can still look back on memories and be happy about them or be sad about them. It creates a place or a visual where they can go to connect with the person they have lost.
- Art is something they can always come back to whenever they feel the grief coming on. It is a way to escape but also a way to express those feelings when they don’t know how to talk about it.
- Artistic expression can be a very spiritual experience even in children. Using different colors to represent positive and negative feelings, different textures and mediums can truly have healing properties.
Masterpiece or Simple release
Art to help process and express grief in children has so many benefits. It is a tool they can use throughout life. Some people struggle with being able to explain their grief and many children just don’t know what they are feeling. There are so many ways to use art to support grief in children. Look here for ideas on some simple art.