Why use grief bags?
This year I wanted to help close the gap between home and school when providing grief resources. Over the last two years at my new school, I have taught classroom lessons on coping and resiliency, facilitated grief small groups, partnered with our local university (University of Tennessee-Knoxville) to match students with grief mentors, and referred students to a grief camp.
However, I felt like there was still a gap in helping our students. I needed to help them transfer these skills to their homes and educate parents. I also wanted to provide families the knowledge and resources that I have in my office, but in a way that was accessible to them.
So, I came up with to go grief bags.
Thanks to a wonderful local church donation we were able to make 12 "grief bags." The idea is that families could check out resources just like they would check out a library book for use at home.
Who gets these bags?
Each bag has a specific topic designed for our grieving families. The topics include:
- grief/loss of a family member
- big changes like divorce or a move
- grief/loss of a friend
- cancer support
- grief/loss of a pet
- families facing a traumatic event
- general sadness or fear
The canvas bags (which I purchased from Oriental Trading) each have a number on the back. On my checkout sheet, I have a quick reference sheet that matches the number of the bag to the topic. This makes it easy to grab and go.
How do you get referrals?
I advertised our bags through my monthly newsletter, on our Facebook page, and through teacher newsletters. Our front office staff also became great at referring families to this resource.
Families/guardians also complete a permission form which includes; selection of a grief topic they would like, the names and ages of the family members, general information about how to use the bag, and when to return it.
What is in each bag?
While each bag is different, many of the contents are the same. They include donated and purchased items. We ask that parents return many of the items so they can be used by the next family.
- A journal
- Pencils and pens
- Lined paper
- White or construction paper
- A travel-size empty shampoo bottle
- Pipe cleaners
- Crayons and/or markers
- Books and/or a DVD specific to the topic of the bag
- A travel-size pack of tissues
- A pencil sharpener
- Bookmark with stress tips
- A folder containing: a list of activities for parents to use the materials together (the playdough activity is from Counselor Keri and the “Feelings of Loss” color sheet is from My Lemarks)
- Information on grief, trauma, and change for parents. I gathered these from a variety of sources including My Lemarks, Grief's Journey, and Good Grief.
- A list of local resources, agencies, and grief camps
- “How To Talk To Children About Death” booklet from Covenant Hospice
- Brochures on mindfulness, stress, trauma, and separation anxiety (parents may keep these).
Not sure what to put in each bag? Check out these ideas from Speckled Moose Counseling.
I love this resource for our families at home because I think it provides experiential resources for them as they discuss tough topics. It’s also become a great resource for our families after a group ends because it provides a nice transition. They are also great if the student isn’t ready to talk to me or another counselor yet and for our families during the summer.
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Laura Filtness is the School Counselor in Knoxville, TN and was the 2017 TSCA Elementary School Counselor of the Year. You can visit her blog, Paws-itive School Counseling or follow her on Twitter @sassy_school. Laura creatively infuses her love of dogs into her counseling program. The best way to sum up Laura’s love of her dogs is that she proudly once won a crazy dog mom contest. Her dog, Boss, is a certified therapy dog with H.A.B.I.T. and loves helping kids read.