HELPING CHILDREN REMEMBER AND HONOR THEIR LOVED ONES
By Allyson England Drake, M.Ed, CT
Saying goodbye to a loved one who has died is one of the most difficult experiences for a child. This painful process can be made a little easier by creating avenues for the child to honor and remember their loved one. A ritual or activity of remembrance is important because it shows children that their loved one’s life will be honored or remembered for years to come. It provides a time or place for the child to talk about their loved one, hear stories and memories from others, and learn ways to keep their loved one’s memory alive.
To start the discussion about remembrance with young children, I would recommend two children’s books…Ida, Always by and Always Remember by. These beautifully illustrated books tell the story of the death of an animal, and ways that their friends and family kept their memory alive- through telling stories, talking about special experiences, and participating in activities that they once did together.
These stories are short and easy to read, and can help spark conversations with a child about ways to honor and
remember a friend or family member.
Actively remembering loved ones who have died is what keeps them with us always. I have provided a few ideas for remembrance activities for families to do together, but remembrance rituals are most meaningful when they are altered in ways to honor the loved one’s personality, interests, or hobbies.
- Make a memory book that includes pictures, mementos, favorite quotes, spiritual verses, etc.
- Light a candle on holidays, anniversaries in honor of the loved one
- Make a toast to your loved one at dinner nightly, weekly, or on special occasions
- Create a playlist of the loved one’s favorite songs
- Carry something special with you that reminds you of your loved one or wear a special piece of his/her clothing or jewelry
- Do a favorite activity of the person who died on their birthday or anniversary of their death
- Make and eat the favorite meal of the person who died
- Create a shrine or special area in your house that reminds you of your loved one, with mementos, pictures, etc. This area can be used for reflection or a memorial space
- Create your own grief ritual to honor the person who died, such as light a candle, read or say aloud a verse or quote, chat, sing a song, ring or chime a bell, or play a particular selection of music
- Make a plan for anniversaries, holidays, and special event to help honor and remember the person who died