Grief itself can be an isolating experience. Add on top of that our current social distancing circumstances, and you may find yourself needing new coping skills and outlets for your emotions. At this time, you and your children may be wishing for visits with friends and family, travel to destinations outside of your own four walls, or just different life circumstances. You may be wishing your loved one were at home with you during this time. Talking about and writing down your wishes can offer an outlet to these hopes and dreams and can help you communicate your needs to other members of your family. Maybe not all wishes are realistic, but is there a way that you can make some of these wishes “come true”? Even if it’s just by hosting a picnic in your own living room, instead of vacationing to your favorite destination. Try out some of the activities below to grant you and your children a bit of wish-fulfillment.
Wish Flag: Ages 3-8
Supplies: Card stock (or construction paper/computer paper), scissors, colored pencils, markers or crayons, yarn or string, and a hole punch
Children will create a three-tiered wish flag. Cut paper into three triangles (like “pennants”). On the first triangle, encourage children to draw a picture of their loved one. On the second triangle, have them draw a happy memory with their loved one. On the third triangle, they can draw something they wish they could do with their loved one if they were here.
Using a hole punch, add two holes to one side of each triangle to thread yarn through (or add slits with scissors). Tie a knot on either side of each triangle to keep each flag in place. Allow your child to share each flag with you and then find a place in the house or in their room to display it.
Wish Box: Ages 9-12
Supplies: Empty tissue box (or small shipping box), construction paper, wrapping paper, or tissue paper, magazines, glue, tape, markers, and slips of paper or post-it notes
Take the empty tissue box or small shipping box and cover it in the paper of your choosing (construction, wrapping, or tissue), leaving the hole at the top open (or cut a hole in the top if using a small shipping box). Use glue or tape to secure paper to the box. Ask children to decorate the box with things that make them feel hopeful. They can draw these images or if you have old magazines lying around, they can cut out images or words to glue onto the box.
Once the box is decorated, invite children to write their wishes on slips of paper or post-its. Keep extra paper next to the box so that they can continue to add wishes. Examples can include things they wish they could tell their loved one or things they wish they could do at this time. You can also invite them to share these wishes with you periodically – it is possible that some of these wishes may be simple enough to be granted! (Ex. “I wish I could see my friends more!” – try having a video play-date!) The wishes may also give you insight into how your children are coping and can open lines of communication as a family.
Postcard to Your Loved One: Ages 13-18
Supplies: Half sheet of paper or card stock, colored pencils, and markers or crayons
Teens can decorate their postcard in any way they choose. Some suggestions: a place they wish they could travel or a place they loved to visit with their loved one. On the back, they can write a message to their loved one. This message can include what they would want their loved one to know about how these last weeks have been for them. They can also tell their loved one what they wish they could do at this time, or what they wish they could do if their loved one was here. Teens can keep these postcards to themselves or share with you.
Letter from Your Future Self: Ages 19+
Supplies: Paper and writing utensil
Picture a time, whether it is 1 year in the future, 5 years in the future, or even further. Think about how you would like to feel and what you would like to accomplish. Write a letter to your current self from this future version of yourself. Include advice or encouragement, describe what life is like for you in the future – what is different? Think about how your grief might be different and explain what changes you made to get there. End your letter with particular words of encouragement about this time we’re in – acting as your future self, think about what words you need to hear to get through this time of social distancing and possibly being away from family and friends.
Hope Rock: The Whole Family
Supplies: Flat or smooth rock, and sharpies or paints
On a walk or in the backyard, go on a hunt for the perfect rock for painting! This might be a particularly smooth rock or one with a cool shape. You can decorate one rock as a family, or each family member can find a rock to decorate. Using sharpies or paints, decorate the rock with an image or phrase that brings you hope or makes you feel encouraged. Once the rocks are dry, your family can take a walk and find a spot to leave the rock to brighten someone’s day!