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A Compilation of Grief Activities for Individuals and Groups

GRIEF ACTIVITIES
RESOURCES FOR INDIVIDUALS, FAMILIES AND GROUPS

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

A Compilation of Grief Activities for Individuals and Groups

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION
WELCOME AND GROUP NAME
NEEDS AND EXPECTATIONS FOR A GRIEF GROUP
ROLE OF GROUP FACILITATOR
SETTING UP THE GROUP
SCREENING STUDENTS
GROUP STRUCTURE/AGENDA

CURRICULUM
SECTION I: TEEN ACTIVITIES

SECTION 2: HANDOUTS FOR TEENS

SECTION 3: HANDOUTS FOR COUNSELORS AND PARENTS

SECTION 4: MORE ACTIVITIES By Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A.


Change is Natural
Creative Group Coloring Project
Feelings Can Be Felt In Our Bodies
Feelings
Funerals
Getting To Know One Another
Highest Hopes Deepest Fears
Life Cycle
Loss
Memory Box
People Change
Someone I Love Died
The Things I Sometimes Wonder About

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

A Compilation of Grief Activities for Individuals and Groups

INTRODUCTION
This curriculum is presented as a work manual for the counselors facilitating grief groups
and members. This manual assists grief groups with structured didactic activities to
choose from.

It is a compilation of activities and handouts that are meant to be used, copied, added to,
or discarded according to preferences.
Most simply it is a sample grief group program with suggestions for organization of each
group meeting. There are introductory sections on setting up and running a group
followed by the eight-week curriculum completed by the appendices of activities and
handouts.

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

A Compilation of Grief Activities for Individuals and Groups

NEED AND EXPECTATIONS FOR A GRIEF GROUP

Our Group name


This is A

_______________________________
group! We come together to name our group and to make our PLACE and

journey together special and unique. The goal

4 success of our group is up to us. We

have the opportunity to share within this group which includes being open with one
another. What we wish to achieve is HOPE . Through expressing our feelings, hopes,

and dreams, we may allow ourselves to know and be known by others. Friendship and
self-awareness are our rewards. We will respect the privacy of members by keeping
group discussions within our group. What we see, say, and hear let it stay in this

special Place. There are only a few rules for our group: *no side conversations and *we

must be kind to one another.

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

A Compilation of Grief Activities for Individuals and Groups

ROLE OF GROUP FACILITATOR


I understand the role of facilitator to be the provider of a safe place for the grief work to
occur. It is based on the premise that each person has an innate understanding of the
work he or she needs to do. Members will become expert on their grief. When they feel
safe, the work that needs to be done is done. All the group rules, which I like to let the
group generate, are rooted in the idea of safety: confidentiality, not interrupting, listening,
etc.
The facilitator starts and ends the group and helps the group to regulate discussion,
keeping strong members from dominating and bringing out quieter ones, with their
permission.
Facilitators also give members permission to not share before they are ready. These
structural components are an important part of the members feeling safe.
SETTING UP THE GROUP
Factors to consider before starting:
The number of weeks for the group including start and end dates.
Co-facilitators and volunteers.
The number of members.
Location of group: privacy, same room for all groups, table for activities.
Materials available. Consider having a folder for each student to keep any activities in.
At the last group these memory Packets will be returned to the members.

SCREENING
This serves at least two important purposes:
1. It educates about the group rules and purposes.
2. Building the relationship and the strength of the group.
Ask members to fill out the Grief Group questionnaire or similar instrument.

GROUP STRUCTURE/AGENDA
An agenda with activities is helpful but the best groups are often those where,
when we are following what is going on for the group, we forget about the agenda.
Each group in this curriculum will have the following components:
1. A theme with tools to be learned.
2. An opening ritual. This may be only your way of starting the group, which becomes
expected and therefore ritual. (Our Circle Introduction and Candle Lighting)
3. One or more activities.
4. Handouts.
5. Closing ritual. (Blowing Out The Candle)

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

A Compilation of Grief Activities for Individuals and Groups

One:
Theme(s): Ice-breaking, introductions, group norm building.
Opening: Brief intros, develop rules, invitation to share.
Activity1: Move; Talking stick.
Activity2: What got me here; Question basket.
Handout: Normal Grieving, Physical Effects.
Closing: Re-invite sharing, review handout, ask about what helps (see introduction).
Two:
Theme(s): Getting to know each other, memory building.
Opening: Review what helps from last week, Invitation to share, memory mural.
Activity: Choose from My Story, What do You Need? &/or Question Basket.
Handout: Bill of Rights for Teens Experiencing Grief, Common Myths About Grief.
Closing: Review handouts, remind to bring sharing, what are you going to do to take
care of you?
Three:
Theme: Family and other changes since the death.
Opening: Review what you did to help, Memory Mural, and Invitation to share.
Activity: Choose from What do you need (if not done last week)? Timeline, Writing
letters to Parents, What has changed in your life, Rough Mountain Smooth Mountain.
Handout: Conquering Depression.
Closing: As above.
Four:
Theme: Follow-up on Family changes, Feelings.
Opening: Review homework, memory mural.
Activity: Choose from Four Feelings, Anger Circle, I miss you most &/or Collage.
Handout: Words of Feelings.
Closing: As above.
Five:
Theme: This is a transitional group: either continue with last week (Feelings) or begin
Coping.
Opening: As above.
Activity: Continue with feeling activities &/or Faces, Garbage in Garbage out, Light
Hearted Personality Profile, Unpack grief Bundle.
Handout: How to help grieving people.
Closing: as above, remind how many meetings left.

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

A Compilation of Grief Activities for Individuals and Groups

Six:
Theme: Tools.
Opening: As above; remind number of weeks left.
Activity: Choose from Question Basket, Shield, Dear Aunt Blabby, &/or Future Fears.
Handout: Strategies for Coping, Good-bye Letter (from Activity List).
Closing: as above.
Seven:
Theme: Good-byes.
Opening: As above.
Activity: Forgiveness Circle, Memorial Activity.
Handout: Establishing realistic expectations for your grief.
Closing: Discuss favorite snack (if doing this).
Eight:
Theme: Good-byes.
Opening: As above, review.
Activity: Memorial Activity, Favorite snack, Momentos to share.
Handout: Memory books.
Closing: Rose Petals.

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

A Compilation of Grief Activities for Individuals and Groups


SECTION I: TEEN ACTIVITIES

1.1 CHAIN OF EVENTS


1.2 CLAY ACTIVITY
1.3 COLLAGE
1.4 COLOR YOUR HEART
1.5 DEAR AUNT BLABBY
1.6 FACES
1.7 FEELINGS AND COLORS
1.8 FORGIVENESS CIRCLE
1.9 FOUR FEELINGS
1.10 FUTURE FEARS
1.11 GARBAGE IN . . . GARBAGE OUT . . .
1.12 HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY?
1.13 I MISS YOU MOST WHEN . . .
1.14 JOURNALS FOR THE WEEK
1.15 KLEENEX TOSS
1.16 LETTER TO THE DECEASED
1.17 LIGHT-HEARTED PERSONALITY PROFILE
1.18 MEMORIAL ACTIVITY
1.19 MEMORIAL QUILT
1.20 MEMORIES
1.21 MEMORIES II
1.22 MEMORY MURAL
1.23 MOVE
1.23b MY STORY
1.24 NOW AND THEN
1.25 QUESTION BASKET
1.26 QUESTION BASKET SAMPLES
1.27 ROSE PETALS: CLOSING RITUAL
1.28 ROUGH MOUNTAIN, SMOOTH MOUNTAIN
1.29 SHIELD
1.30 TIMELINE
1.31 THE TIMES OF MY LIFE
1.32 TALKING STICK
1.33 THANKFUL ALPHABET THOUGHTS
1.34 TOMBSTONE ACTIVITY
1.35 THE UNGAME
1.36 UNPACK YOUR GRIEF BUNDLE
1.37 VICTIMS DONT HEAL!
1.38 WHAT DO YOU NEED?
1.39 WHAT GOT ME HERE?
1.40 WHAT HAS CHANGED IN YOUR LIFE?
1.41 WHERE ARE YOU?
1.42 WRITING LETTERS TO PARENTS

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A Compilation of Grief Activities for Individuals and Groups

CHAIN OF EVENTS

Age Level: All


Time Required: Flexible
Materials Needed: Scissors, tape, staples or glue sticks
Construction paper cut into 8 x 1 strips
Crayons or markers
Goal:
1. To reconstruct a series of events around a certain aspect of the death. For
example, the events leading up to the disclosure of an illness, or the events of
the funeral and its preparation.
2. As a variation, to link group participants names with their names of deceased
loved ones and each other. Our heart connection is made symbolically visible.
Description of Activity:
1. Each child cuts number of strips of construction paper.
2. On each strip they write an event and/or its corresponding feeling. For
example, the first strip might say: Daddy never feels well anymore. The second
strip might be:
Mom took daddy to the doctor, everyone is telling secrets, etc.
3. Strips are then glued, taped or stapled into rings to form a chain of events.
4. Discussion should then center on feelings that happened during that time
frame.

Teen Talk, Good Samaritan Hospice Taken from Bereavement Magazine, Nov/Dec, 1994

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LIGHTHEARTED PERSONALITY PROFILE

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JOURNALING
How To Start

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There is no right way or wrong way to keep a journal. Keeping a


journal is easy. You just need paper, or a notebook and a
comfortable pen or colored markers or you can use the computer.
Here are some tips to get you started.
* Write when you have uninterrupted time
* Write for about fifteen to twenty minutes daily
* Use a comfortable writing tool
* Choose a comfortable place to write
* Try to write at the same time everyday
* Date your entries
* Don't judge your writing. Don't worry about grammar, spelling,
punctuation or sounding "just right." The point is to write about
what's on your mind and in your heart.
* Accept your writing and write from within. Don't be a critic.
* Don't try to write a story or a novel
* Trust your intuitive heart, the words will come
* Be gentle with yourself
* As you begin to write close your eyes and take a moment to get
centered
* Begin with a deep breath
* If you get stuck begin doodling and see where that takes you
* Experiment, play, be open to where your heart takes you in
your writing
Journal Topics For Grief
* Write a letter to your special someone who has died.
* Write about a special memory of your special someone.
* Write about what you wish you'd done or not done.
* Write about the things you wish you'd said or not said.
* Write about what you miss most about your special someone.
* Write about an alter or memorial you can design for your
special someone and then create it.

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CHANGE IS NATURAL
Change is natural and occurs throughout our lives. Can you think of any changes that
have happened in your life? You can draw or color some of these changes below or on a
separate sheet of paper. Creating a project may also be useful to explain how change
appears to you.
________________________________________________________________________
EGG

________________________________________________________________________
CATERPILLAR

________________________________________________________________________
COCOON

________________________________________________________________________
BUTTERFLY

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CREATIVE GROUP COLORING PROJECT


Sometimes in our lives it is important for us to accept help from others and rely
on friends and family members for help to overcome obstacles and be successful. For
example; if one person tries to build a house all alone, there is a lot of work to be done
and it is a very difficult job! If a whole team works together and pitches in, a house can
be built much easier and in less time. Each member of our group is a part of a puzzle and
may offer different talents and skills to use in building the big picture.
In this project each member of our group is part of a team that can make a big
project easier and each person can contribute his or her own skills to create the big
picture.
OBJECTIVE
For each group member to contribute to the group project and work together as a team to
finish the final product.
MATERIALS
At least twelve different colored markers or other art supplies
A large sheet of paper
Group size: 4-12
DIRECTIONS
Ask the group to decide how to determine which color each person should use. Each
member gets a different colored marker or art supply. This will be the only color that they
will use (No Sharing). For smaller groups each member may get more than one color.
The group will create a picture using all of the colors.
Example: A member with a brown color may choose to make the trunk of a tree and the
person with the green could make the leaves. This project can be silly or serious
depending on how the members choose to use the markers or art supplies. (A coloring
book page could be used as an alternative).
DISCUSSION
1. Was this difficult for the group? Why? Why Not?
2. How did you work as a group to complete the task?
3. Is everyone happy with the project? Why or why not?
4. Is it easier to do things by yourself or with others?
5. Why is it important to be able to work together as a team?

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FEELINGS CAN BE FELT IN OUR BODIES


Where do you feel feelings in your body? Color in the chart below and match a color
with your feelings. Then color the picture to tell you where you feel different feelings.
FEELING____________=COLOR_______________
FEELING____________=COLOR_______________
FEELING____________=COLOR_______________
FEELING____________=COLOR_______________

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FEELINGS
We all have different feelings and it this is OK. Feelings changeCan you draw
some different faces that show some of your feelings?

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FUNERALS
A funeral service is when friends and family get together to honor a loved one
who has passed away or died. This is only one of the many things that we can do to say
goodbye. Funerals help us to understand that a person has died and that we will be going
through some changes because of the emotions of loss that we feel. It can be very hard to
say goodbye to someone you love. Sometimes it helps to think of funerals as a
celebration of your loved ones life and to think of all the good things about the person
who died. This doesnt make it easier and it is ok to feel the way you feel.
Can you draw or write something about the good things?

Now can you draw something about how you feel?

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Getting to know one another


Breaking the Ice
This exercise will help each group member to learn more about one another. If we are
strangers at this moment, we wont be unfamiliar with one another after we participate in
this activity. If we do happen to know members of our group now, we just might find out
something new about one another.
Questions will be asked. Member can answer the questions one at a time around a circle.
(Remember: members may choose to pass on a question at any time; if they would like more time to think
about the question or if they would simply like to pass)

It is important for all participants to listen to each others response. We are all essential
pieces of this group and let us keep in mind that each of us is unique and a vital element
of our puzzle.
*Cut out each question, put in a container and let each member choose a piece of the puzzle*

What is the best movie that you have seen lately?


What is your favorite movie?
What type of music do you like?
What is your favorite song?
If you could be an animal, what would you be, and why?
What was the best day of your life?
What is your earliest memory?
What is your biggest worry?
What would you like to be doing five years from now?
If you won $5,000, what would you do with it?
What is one thing you dont like about being in group? Whats one thing you do like
about being in this group?
One of the things people like most about me is?
One of the things people like least about me is?

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My favorite singer is?


My favorite actor is?
My favorite athlete is?
My favorite season isbecause?
The person in our group who I think enjoys life the most is?
If all members of our group were stranded on a deserted island, I would choose;
..to be the leader.
..to be the peace keeper.
..to be the home maker.
The group member that I learned most about was.?
The person in our group that I would like to get to know better is?
What I would like to learn more about in this group would be?
MORE QUESTIONS
Ask each member to write down three questions that he or she would like to know about
individuals in the group.

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

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Highest Hopes, Deepest Fears


Cohesion and Empathy
(If there is a need for helpful internalization, ask members to be themselves or use animals to
represent themselves and what their interests are.( Use art, writings, drawings, or any source of
creativity to visualize the image(s) )

Each person completes the Highest Hopes, Deepest Fears worksheet/ activity
independently.
After each member finishes the worksheet/activity, members are paired up. While
members are paired they explain their worksheet to their partner. The group then comes
together. The group members share their partners worksheet and responses to the rest of
our group. Positive feedback is then given to each participant.
*It is important to explain what the definition of positive feedback means and to discuss
examples.
*Let us encourage partners and group members to question and explore one anothers responses.
*Comment on shared responses.
*Comment on the understandings of members views or perspectives. (What it means to put our
self in another persons shoes)
This exercise may build a sense of belonging to the group, especially when personal information
is shared with other members.
This exercise also helps members practice empathic skills while sharing their partners responses
to the worksheet.

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

A Compilation of Grief Activities for Individuals and Groups

HIGHEST

HO PES

(4)

DEEPEST

FEARS

(4)

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

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A Compilation of Grief Activities for Individuals and Groups

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

117

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118

LOSS
Objective:
1. Identify personal losses and share them with the group.
2. Gain an understanding of the grieving process.
3. Discuss the progressions of the loss cycle and identify the stage they believe they
are in now.
4. Reframe loss experiences, comprehend, and normalize reactions to loss.
5. Begin or continue to process personal losses.
6. Identify factors that may be contributing to feelings of depression.
Materials:
1. White board or poster board with a marker.
2. A copy of this hand out.
Each member of our group will get a chance to share about if and when they may have
experienced a loss and felt sad. Members responses will be written down as they share,
somewhere they can view them.
Some examples include:
A loved one died.
A friend moved away.
Divorce.
A love relationship ended.
Conflict between a friend or loved one.
Pet died.
A brother or sister left home.
Any type of move.
A car wreck.
Loss of a job.
Girlfriend or boyfriend cheated.
Loss due to injury.
These are examples of losses. Sometimes depression may be the result of some losses.
Think about the losses in your life. These losses may be old and resolved or new and
unexplored. Sometimes losses come to mind during significant periods of our lives such
as birthdays, holidays, or special occasions.
Now, could we share some of our losses with one another? (Could a group member write
the responses where we can all see them?)
After responses are written lets look at the cycle of loss on the following page and
discuss some questions (you can write your responses down if you like)
1. What would you guess is the most usual response or the first feeling you have to a
loss?
Answer:

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

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119

2. Did any of you react to your loss, as if you just couldnt believe it?
Answer:
3. Can you think of a time when you thought about bartering in reaction to your
loss? (Example: Wait! What if I could have somehow stopped a loved one from
dying?)
Answer:
4. What reaction might follow a period of bartering?
Answer:
5. Who would you be angry with? (Example: God, self, others)
Answer:
6. Does anyone want to share anything about the loss cycle or where you think you
are in the cycle?
Answer:
It is important to know that people do not just click through the loss cycle without
glitches. We usually do not just move from stage 1 to stage 2 to stage 3 etc. We tend to
bounce around a bit. For example, it is not unusual to be on the up side of the cycle (the
acceptance stage) when denial is reactivated (this cant be true!).
If you chose to share, thank you! If not, thats O.K. too! Sometimes it helps people to
begin to heal by talking about their losses as well as listening to others share their stories
or experiences of losses.

Any Thoughts, Reactions or Notes

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

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Memory Box
A memory box is a great way to remember thoughts, feelings, and special
memories about the person you have lost. This is your special box for holding memories.
The items that you choose to put in this box are up to you. Looking through your memory
box can help you feel close to your loved one once again.
You can make it out of any type of container that you choose. Once you have a box,
you can decorate it how you like. Here are a few ideas:

Write the persons name on it or include the persons name inside the box.

Use glitter glue, markers, crayons, or colored pencils to draw things that may
remind of your loved one.

Draw a picture of this person.

Use stickers.

Glue a photo of the person you lost on the box.

After you decorate your box you can put items and little drawings or notes in Your
Special Memory Box.

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

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PEOPLE CHANGE
People change over time and this is a natural occurrence. Imagine how life would be if
we did not changeCan you try to draw a picture of yourself and other things that you
would like as a BABY, as you are NOW, and as A LOT OLDER?
BABY

NOW

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

A LOT OLDER

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SOMEONE I LOVE DIED


Someone I love passed away and died. _______________ was a special person in my life
because
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________Here is my drawing of_____________:

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com

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THE THINGS I SOMETIMES WONDER ABOUT


There are things that I sometimes wonder about. When I wonder about these things I
would like to ask questions. For example; many people wonder about what happens when
a loved one dies. Some people believe that these people have a soul or spirit that may go
to heaven. Others think that a persons soul or spirit changes and becomes another living
thing like how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. What do you think? Draw, color, or write
about some of your wonders.

Elizabeth Mahaney, M.A. www.SouthTampaTherapy.com