One of the first activities we did was a healing heart. We used large red roll paper to cut out a gigantic heart. We then cut the heart into squiggly lined pieces. We made enough pieces so that each member of the group and both of us would have a piece. We then labeled the back of the heart so we would remember how it went back together. Note: I highly recommend doing that! It made it so much easier to put it back together.
During our first group session, we explained to students that everyone in the group has experienced a loss or multiple losses of people they care about. We passed out a piece of the heart to each student. We instructed them that they could use the piece of the heart to draw a picture, write a memory, share a message, or decorate how ever they wanted to honor the losses they have experienced. Students utilized crayons, markers, and colored pencils to write on their heart pieces.
After everyone was done working on their heart piece, we asked if anyone wanted to share what they created. Everyone was open and willing to share their creation with the group. We had the students help us put the heart back together. We used tape to affix the heart on to a window in my office. We passed out bandages to students and had them put bandages on the parts of the heart where the pieces met each other.
We explained that although our hearts have been broken by the losses we have experienced, together as a group we can heal. The heart is hanging in a prominent place visible to the students and serves as a constant reminder of how we are healing together each week in group.
Students' reactions to this activity were pretty amazing. They could understand the symbolism and really enjoyed participating in this activity. Students were very open and willing to share and I feel this provided a great medium to express themselves. This activity also fostered group cohesion and connected the students from beginning of the group. Students were able to see they were not the only ones experiencing a loss.
We took a picture of the heart and gave a copy to each student to keep. In a subsequent session awe created memory boxes and we gave students a copy of the to put in their memory box. This activity would also be appropriate for groups focusing on incarceration, military deployment, divorce, or any other group focusing on a loss of some kind.
The picture in this post is the actual healing heart we made in group. I edited the picture so students' writings and drawings are not visible.
For more ideas, check out my previous post about using a balloon release as a culminating activity and my post about other groups I facilitate.
What activities do you facilitate in grief and loss groups? Comment below, email me, tweet, or share on the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page!
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.