Ways to help children remember
The following are some ideas to help a child remember a special person in his or her life who has died. Since everyone grieves differently and we find different ways to heal from our losses, decide which ways will be meaningful to you—individually and as a family.
Some of these ideas make good family projects. Some you may want to do yourself for your children to keep.
Send a photo page to friends and relatives. Ask them to write stories and add photos.
Invite guests to share a memory about the person who died. Videotape the party and remembrances that are shared so you and your children can watch in the future. Guests can even be given note paper in advance of the party so they can bring their stories and thoughts with them.
Plantings and gardens
Plant a tree, flowers or flowering shrubs in memory of the person who died. Some people have created a memory garden by planting their loved one’s favorite flowers. Decorative touches that symbolize something about the person who died can be added to the garden. One idea is use stepping stones that have meaningful words carved on them.
Life review scrapbook
With the help of family and friends do a life review of the person who died. Collect pictures, stories, and anecdotes that tell the story of this person’s life over the time s/he lived.
Download your favorite photos to a CD and mail to other family members to help them remember. Make sure your children have their own copy.
Choose a favorite picture and use this as your computer screen saver. Change the picture when you want to remember your loved one in different ways.
Using squares cut out of your loved one’s clothing, make a quilt that you and your children can wrap around you when you need to feel close to the person who died. Your children may want one of their own. Favorite shirts, bathrobes and jackets work well.
Similar to the quilt idea, teddy bears can be made out of a loved one’s favorite shirt, pajamas or bathrobe.
Create a photo collage of the person and/or things that remind you of the person. This could include a fishing pole if the person liked to fish, or a trumpet if the person played this musical instrument. This would be a great project to do with your children.
Collect some of your loved one’s favorite things and place them in a shadow box. These may be actual items that belonged to the person who died or items that represent who the person was and what they liked. Each child can make their own shadow box of the things that are special to them because of the unique relationship they had with the person who died.
Birthday party remembrance
It sometimes helps in our grieving process to remember our loved ones on their birthdays and celebrate the day they were born and the life they lived. The food may be all of your loved one’s favorites. The cake may serve more than one purpose—to remember your loved one and to recognize that you are still a family and you can still celebrate life in the midst of your sorrow.
Some faith communities have remembrance days in which the names of those who have died in the past year are read. Some light candles in memory of each person who died. If this is part of your spiritual life, this may be a meaningful remembrance for you.
Sympathy cards, birthday cards, Valentine’s Day cards, etc. can all be reminders of how much our loved ones were cared about and how much they loved us. Ask your children which ones are meaningful to them and keep them organized in a scrap book. Keep the scrap book in a place the kids can reach by themselves so they can look through it on their own.
Things that belonged to loved ones become a tangible or physical link to them when we no longer have their physical presence in our lives. We never know what object holds a powerful attachment and memory for someone in our family. Ask each of your children what they would like to have as a keepsake of the person who died. Some children may be reluctant in giving you an answer. That does not necessarily mean they don’t want a keepsake. It just may not be the right time for them to make a decision. Ask again another time.
Help your children capture their memories of the person who died by remembering with them. Write down their memories no matter how small they may seem. Something as simple as “Grandpa’s favorite color was red” or “Mom ate Cheerios for breakfast” can be a big thing to children. Other ways to capture the memories are to record or draw them. These can be put in a scrap book for each child to have as personal remembrances.
We have other information geared toward helping children in grief. If you have any concerns about how your child is coping with a death, contact Fairview's Youth Grief Services. We are here to help you and your children.