Dealing With Loss is such a difficult undertaking. Imagine how difficult it is for a child. If a child loses one or both his/her parents or any other family member due to whatever cause, his/her life would be gravely affected.
One very effective way to help children deal with loss is through storytelling. Children are always interested in stories. It’s the reason why this method has been used for educational purposes for many years. Now, experts advise to use this method in helping children express and release emotions of grief and cope with loss more efficiently.
When a child tells a story, he/she would often use people or animals to represent his/her fears, feelings and concerns. This is what experts call symbolic language. It enables the child to let his/her feelings be known without having to talk directly about himself/herself.
Most children who tell stories are not aware that they use symbolic language. But adults can recognize this and use it to talk about the feelings of a child. For example, a child who is not able to express anger caused by the death of his/her father would tell a story about the ferocious lion that got mad when its father died. Storytelling can be used by the child to talk about his/her emotions freely and without feeling embarrassed or guilty about it.
Help a child recover from grief through the use of storytelling by following the guidelines enumerated below:
Ask the child to provide more details in the story. For example, if he/she tells about the lion that got furious with the death of its father, ask the child questions like how the lion expressed this anger and how long it lasted. This will help the child express the emotions more clearly.
Have the child re-tell the story with different endings. You can also contribute to telling endings if the child seems to be ending the story negatively. This will show the child that endings in stories can still be positive despite the negative things that happened in it.
Always incorporate positive values in the story. Positive values such as strong will, patience and determination should be used in the story to help the protagonist in coping with the problem. This will motivate the child to use those values in real life in coping with his/her own grief.
Starting the Story
Start the story if the child doesn’t feel like telling the story on his/her own. Then as the child becomes more comfortable, he/she would be able to contribute better to the story. You can also take turns in telling the story. Be sure to praise the child whenever he/she contributes something to the story.
Encourage the child to draw pictures to tell stories. If the child isn’t comfortable about telling a story, you can use another medium like drawing to go through this activity. Drawing pictures can also help you in getting more information about what the child is feeling and how he/she is coping with the situation. Also, asking aout the drawing is a very natural way to start a storytelling.