Helping Kids by Teaching Teachers about Grief

Photo by Jason Henry for the SF Chronicle

It takes lots of caring adults to help kids through grief. We had a conversation with the Medford School District this week about bringing our bereavement training into the schools — because teachers and other adults often don’t know how to help a youth in pain from a loss. It’s nice to see that this important work is being embraced in other places.  See this San Francisco Chronicle article.

Children’s Grief and the Power of Ritual

This story comes from Angel DeShane, our Children’s Program Coordinator.

At the end of the Children’s Program in the Spring, we honor the work the children have done by having a rock ceremony. Each child gets to pick a beautiful smooth polished stone from the box. I explain how our grief is like a tumbled stone — we start off rough in our grief journey and as we heal and grow, like a rock in a tumbler, we begin to get smooth and life gets a bit better. I also give each child a rough stone which I pick out of the street at my house, just simple gravel, signifying that there will often be days that are going to be rough.

As we were finishing up, I noticed one little girl was searching the ground. “What did you lose?” I asked.

“I lost my rock” she said. I told her it was OK, because I had more in the car and she could pick a new one. I got out the box of beautiful polished stones  and opened it for her to pick a new one.

She looked in the box and said, “No not the smooth one…I lost my rough stone.”

At this point one of the other little girls said, “Just pick one up off the ground.”

“No,” she said, “It has to be a special one that Angel gives us or it won’t be the same.”

I felt so honored in that moment that I thought my heart would burst. To be a part of the journey these children are on is such a gift.

Angel says she looks forward to working with new and returning children to our program this month. Thanks, Angel, for all you do for these kids!


What do kids in grief really feel?

New York LifNyl_con_griefjourneye is doing great work for understanding kids in grief.  They say in their recent study: Kids value communication about loss, but feel it’s lacking: Many say “most people don’t know how to talk to you after a loved one dies.”   The study also says that schools score poorly in helping these kids cope. That’s why programs like WinterSpring’s Teen Grief Groups are so important.  As school budgets get cut, kids get less and less support from staff and thus the nonprofits like us who go into the schools become even more important to the health of children, teens and their families.

And see this short video on how children feel:

Children need special care when suffering from a loss


(Photo from

I love this article, which talks about some specific ways to help children with grief.  The author discourages the “let’s just move on” tactic and encourages that children create a “new” relationship with the deceased loved one by doing things such as creating a memory box.  Adults can benefit from this too.  Click here to access this article.