Shortly after my husband passed away, I could tell that our son was using distraction to cope with his grief. If he saw me crying or felt sadness at a memory of his dad, he immediately would turn his attention to his video game and focus completely on what was happening. He didn’t want to talk about his dad, or ask questions.
(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link.)
For the most part, I let him handle his grief in his own way. But I wanted to make sure he knew that he could talk about his dad anytime he wanted, and even if I teared up at the memories, crying was part of my healing process. I can’t remember how many times I told him ‘sometimes you just have to cry to feel better.’
I decided to make a memory journal. I made it so that my son would have his dad’s history, even if just the happier moments, and could read it and smile at the memories whenever he was ready to do it. And by having my son put some memories in the book himself, I thought it may help him come to terms with his grief.
If you want to make a memory journal, there is no right or wrong way to do it. Yours doesn’t have to be only happy memories inside, either. Here is how we made ours, and you can follow what we did or make your own unique version. But journaling is a healthy coping activity for ourselves and our children.
If your child is too young to write, perhaps they can draw pictures of the memories they want to preserve.
I didn’t buy anything fancy for our memory book. I found a sketch book at a craft store, like this one, and I liked the way the pages weren’t lined. There are also guided grief journals you can purchase to give you inspiration and encouraging thoughts along the way.
(If you, as a parent, want to try journaling to help cope with grief, but you are worried about your kids finding your secret thoughts, you might try an online journal. LifeJournal has a couple of options, and they have a free trial if you want to try it out to see if it works for you.)
GATHERING SPECIAL PHOTOS
I gathered a few photos: ones where my husband was making silly faces (we have a LOT of those), pictures of their special father-son moments, pictures of he and I together. I will admit, this part was extremely difficult for me. It’s possible that I was trying to do this too soon. My own grief process was very similar to my son’s: stay busy, try not to think about it. Distract, distract, distract.
When you are gathering your own pictures, it’s a good time to talk to your child about it and perhaps relive those special moments, like vacations, special events, parties. When we can learn to smile at the memories, it doesn’t mean the journey is over, as there are always good days and bad, but it means we’ve taken a huge step in the process of healing.
I asked a few family members to submit their special memories of my husband. My son and I especially loved the ones his older brother told us: stories of them growing up and getting into trouble. I’m so glad my son now has these little histories -moments in time- about his dad.
We wrote about our vacations, his jokes and sense of humor. My son wrote that he enjoyed going to work with him, and that he was ‘known for his sarcasm.’ (He heard that from an uncle, but it was so true!)
Making this memory book wasn’t an easy thing to do. It was hard on my heart at the time because everything was so fresh and raw. But now, I’m thankful we did it. We have something preserved of my husband’s wacky sense of humor, and a history of the great times we shared.
Read More Like This: Using Words to Heal Grief
Do you have any tips for helping your child deal with grief? Please comment below!