The holidays can be so hard for our students who are struggling with grief. Everyone around them is celebrating…and they’re in pain…missing their loved one. This is a wonderful little lesson I did with my grief group right before the holidays.
For this lesson you’re going to need the following supplies: Christmas stickers, alphabet stickers, wooden ornaments, scrapbook paper, glitter glue pens, regular glue, foam brush, pencil, and scissors. I also printed off an article about grief, the empty chair poem, and clip art of an empty chair.
We started our session reading an article about Grief and Loss Over the Holidays. Sometimes I like to read articles because then it’s not “me” telling them these concepts/lessons. It’s a professional from Harvard talking about grief…someone smarter than me and someone else who understands their grief. We also read the empty chair poem, which is perfect for this type of lesson. The poem reads “Christmas in Heaven, what do they do? They come down to earth to spend time with you. So save them a seat, just one empty chair. You may not see them but they will be there.”
We then talk about the article and the empty chair poem. We reflect on the meaning and what each author was trying to express. Then I explain that we’re going to make ornaments to remember our loved ones over the holidays. I told the students they could put their loved one’s initials on the ornament or they could do something that symbolizes their loved one. For example they could use a gingerbread man or penguin to symbolize their loved one…similar to the elf on the shelf concept. Their penguin could represent their loved one or the penguin could report back to their loved one…just like the elf reports to Santa.
Now this might seem like an odd concept I created…but I felt like I needed to give them some options/symbolism. About half of my group wants to remember their loved ones privately…they don’t want to share their thoughts with their family members. They don’t want to take home an ornament with their loved one’s initials on it…which will bring on a discussion that they don’t want to have. I let the students decide what they feel comfortable with and I provide them with options for whatever stage of grief they are in.
To make the ornaments we traced the wooden ornament onto scrapbook paper. We then cut the scrapbook paper and glued it onto the wooden ornament using the foam brush. If you paint glue onto a surface, then the scrapbook paper will dry smooth (avoids bumps/creases). As a finishing touch, the students decorated the ornaments with stickers and glitter glue pens. A few students even glued the empty chair poem onto the back of their ornament…they’re so creative!!
Right before we dismissed I gave them all a copy of the 12 Days of Christmas Break. Just a little something to encourage them over the holidays.
I will say this was probably one of my favorite lessons so far. The students really enjoyed making their ornaments!! We played Christmas music and talked about Christmas traditions. It was a wonderful way to wrap things up before the Christmas break!!