Using Games to Deal with Grief and Loss, Part Two — ChildTherapyToys
Using Games to Deal with Grief and Loss, Part Two

Using Games to Deal with Grief and Loss, Part Two

In this post I’ll introduce some games and activities that are helpful for working with children and adolescents who are experiencing a loss or grief. To read Part One and the introduction, click here. In Part One, I also discuss activities for preschool/kindergarten children.

The Doggone Grief Game

The Doggone Grief Game is a board game suitable for children, teens and adults. Up to six people may play this game and it may be led by a parent, teacher or counselor. Players roll the die and move their pawn, represented by a dog, along a path. Spaces on the board correspond with Happy Cards, Sad Cards, Scared Cards, Mad Cards, and Wild Cards. Players respond to the card that corresponds to the space that their pawn lands on. The Doggone Grief Game is non-competitive. Playing the game gives participants the opportunity to communicate the mixture of emotions that accompany grief.

Sample Cards

Sad Card

Sampson has to go to a new dog school and move to a different home. He wants everything to go back to the way it used to be. Do you feel like Sampson and wish things could be normal?

Scared Card

Oh no, Cole was caught chewing on a tennis shoe. He feels so guilty! Do you ever feel like your special person dying was your fault?

Happy Card

Wow, Daisy really likes that treat she just ate! Can you think of any foods your special person really enjoyed eating?

Mad Card

Zandar is shut out of the room he wants to play in by a gate, and he doesn’t understand this. Since your special person died, are there things you do not understand? Please share.

Wild Card

Frankie like to bundle up for those cold and rainy walks. Move ahead 3 spaces so she can get going.

The Talking, Feeling & Doing Grief Card Game
The Talking, Feeling & Doing Grief Card Game may be used with the board from The Talking, Feeling & Doing Game or it may be used as a stand-alone card game. It is recommended for ages 6-12. The card game may be used by teachers, counselors, or parents. It should be facilitated by an adult who can model appropriate answers. The purpose of the game is to facilitate exploration of participants thoughts and feelings associated with the loss. When used with other interventions it provides opportunities for the clinician to communicate to their client that their grieving is healthy and provide opportunities to teach coping strategies. Through their responses, and thoughtful probing of the client’s responses, clinicians will be able to highlight and bring to awareness the child’s strengths, that can assist the child in the process of mourning.

There are three decks of cards: Talking, Feeling, and Doing. When playing with just the cards, players take turns rolling the special triangular die that has the numbers 1 through 4 printed on it. If the player rolls a 1, a Talking card is chosen and responded to. When rolling a 2, a Feeling card is picked, and when rolling a 3, a Doing card is picked. Players earn a chip each time a card is picked and responded to. When rolling a 4, the player receives one chip, and rolls again. Clinicians are free to modify the game and prompts for their clients. The game may end after a time limit has been met, or a specified number of chips are earned.

Sample Cards

Talking

Does sadness ever end after a loss or death?

What do you think when you hear the word grief?

Feeling

If your fear could talk, what would it say?

Tell about how your feelings might be different than other members of your family’s feelings.

Doing

Why do you think a child would run to his/her room and want to be alone?

Take out an imaginary paintbrush and pretend you are painting a picture of your loss. What scene did you create? Tell about it.

Memory Garden Therapeutic Card Game

Memory Garden is a set of 65 illustrated cards. Each card has a unique illustration and a sentence stem. Memory Garden is suitable for ages 12 to adult. The cards are suitable for individual counseling and for groups and families. Memory Garden is a flexible activity and can be used by teachers, counselors and therapists. Activity leaders are free to adapt the cards to their needs. One suggested activity suggests taking turns drawing a card and responding to the sentence stem with the first thing that comes to mind.

Sample Sentence Stems

One ritual in my family is …

I believe when someone dies …

My favorite story about the person who died is …

I cry when …

My funniest memory …

The Good Mourning Game
The Good Mourning Game was developed for children and adolescents, ages 6 to 18 years old. The purpose of the game is to give participants the opportunity to express their feelings about the loss, and progress through the various stages and tasks associated with dealing with loss. The game gives clinicians the opportunity to provide an open and safe environment for participants to think about their loss. Like the other games discussed above, using a game such as The Good Mourning Game clinicians can communicate to their client that their grieving is healthy and provide opportunities to teach coping strategies. Through their responses, and thoughtful probing of the client’s responses, clinicians will be able to highlight and bring to awareness the child’s strengths, that can assist the child in the process of mourning.

The Good Mourning Game is a board game with a path that is shaped like a star. Players move around the points of the star and respond to cards associated with the point. Participants earn tokens when they respond to a card. After earning 3 tokens the participant moves on to the next star point. There are seven types of cards: Coping, Remembering, Imagining, Playing, Feeling, Affirmation, and Pass Cards. The Coping cards assist participants in exploring their feelings and identifying coping strategies. Remembering cards encourage participants to share memories. The Imagining cards are used to teach visualization and relaxation techniques. The Playing cards give participants a chance to disengage from their grief and an opportunity to benefit from laughter. Emotions may be validated and discussed with the Feeling cards, and a participant’s efforts are acknowledged using the Affirmation cards. A Pass card may be used when a participant doesn’t want to respond to a question.

Sample Cards

Coping

Sometimes, if a friend moves out of our lives, we also lose his or her family. Has that ever happened to you?

What are two things you can do with the extra energy you have after a loss?

Affirmation

You’ve shared feelings and listened to others. Keep up the good work!

You’re learning to take charge of your grieving by experiencing it and sharing your feelings. That’s courageous work!

Remembering

Sometimes we lose people who are important to us before we get a chance to tell them things we really want to. Has this happened to you? What would you like to say to the person you lost?

What special food do you connect with your loss?

Feeling

Life is full of changes, some big, some small, some easy, some hard. Tell about a recent change in your life and explain what it’s been like.

Is there a special place you like to go when you need to be alone? What do you do when you’re there?

Imagining

Let your loss come into your mind’s eye. What is the first thing you see?

Close your eyes and picture the most beautiful place you can imagine. This place is safe and has a special area where you can rest and play. Describe it.

Nobody Asked Me! A Game About Divorce
One of the most common events that leads to loss is divorce. Divorce can be very disruptive and confusing to a child. Several games have been developed to assist children who are coping with a divorce. One popular board game is Nobody Asked Me! A Game About Divorce. Counseling activities for children who are experiencing divorce should not only facilitate dealing with the loss but should also provide practical information for the participants. Nobody Asked Me! A Game About Divorce addresses various aspects of the losses associated with divorce and gives clinicians the opportunity to provide practical information. The game includes a board, pawns, one die, What If? cards, and tokens. It is recommended for children ages 8 to 15 and can be played by up to four people or teams. Players roll the die and move around the board. After landing on a space, the player either answers the question on the space, or takes a What If? card.

Sample Questions on the Board

It’s okay to be upset about your parent’s divorce. Do you ever feel angry with your parents for getting divorced? Why or why not?

What are some of your family traditions? How have they changed since your parents divorced?

Name 2 things that you and your Dad do together.

Sample What If? Card

You live with your mom, but you’d rather live with your dad because his house is closer to your school and your friends. What do you do?

  1. You don’t want to hurt your mom’s feelings.
  2. Explain to both of your parents why you want to live with your dad and assure them that it has nothing to do with loving your dad more than your mom.
  3. Ask a teacher or school counselor to tell your parents.
  4. Ask your dad to arrange the switch.
  5. Nome of the above. I would _________________________________.
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