Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Grief and Loss Group: Balloon Release

Over the summer I volunteered at a weekend-long grief and loss camp for children.  As part of the closing ceremony, I had the privilege of facilitating a balloon release.

The balloon release was a simple, yet meaningful way to commemorate loved ones who passed away and give closure to the weekend. The children and staff members wrote messages on the balloons to their loved ones who passed away. I asked everyone to take a few moments to think of their loved one as well as their time spent at the camp that weekend.  After a few moments had passed, I did a countdown to release the balloons.  It was mesmerizing to see dozens of colorful balloons floating in the sky.

For the balloon release, I wrote a message to my grandmother who passed away in 2005 unexpectedly from cancer at age 61.  I wrote a personal message to her and closed it saying "You Are My Sunshine." My grandmother always sang "You Are My Sunshine" to me as a child.  The song is very special to me because it reminds me of my grandmother.  She was a sunshine in my life who "made me happy when skies [were] gray" just like the song states.  It was very therapeutic for me to write a message to her on the balloon and to see it drifting up towards the sky.

I wanted to recreate the balloon release experience for students in my grief and loss group.  I explained the balloon release to the students and asked them if they would be interested in doing one. They were very excited about it.  We decided to plan a balloon release for our last group session together.

I began our last session today by asking students about their favorite parts of group.  Students really enjoyed using conversation cubes to start our sessions, hearing other students talk about their loved ones, reading Tess' Tree to talk about stages of grief, and the "Wall of Support" activity from Girls in Real Life Situations.  (Just a side note, my group was with boys, but many of the activities in Girls in Real Life Situations work great with boys too!)

At the end of the session, we took our balloons out on the playground.  I instructed students to take a few moments of silence to think about their loved ones who have passed away.  After a few moments, I told them I would count to three and we would all release our balloons at the same time.  At the count of three, we all let go. It was beautiful to watch the colorful balloons soaring through the crisp January air. 

The students really enjoyed the balloon release. It was a powerful way to end our group together.

Do you have any favorite activities for grief and loss groups? Comment below, email me, tweet, or share on the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page!

Looking for more ways to use balloons in counseling? Check out my previous post Fabulous Find: Balloons.

Danielle is a K-12 Certified School Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor, and blogger at School Counselor Blog, a place where school counselors share innovative ideas, creative lesson plans, and quality resources.  Contact Danielle via email, follow her on twitter, and become a fan of the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page.

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