• Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering a child feels when something or someone they love is taken away.

    The pain of this loss can feel overwhelming, many children feel as if they've entered a fog, with feelings ranging from shock, anger, disbelief, guilt, and profound sadness. Often, parents are experiencing their own grief and loss, so are unable to focus on the support needed for their children.

    Our Outdoor Play Grief Support Groups provide a space where children and parents can process feelings of loss and grief through play, where they are held in connection, and can move from aloneness to a sense of togetherness. It's a space where children can play and feel a sense of normalcy as a child, in spite of the loss they are experiencing. 

    At times, children and families need more formal, therapeutic services, the intention for Outdoor Play Grief Support Group is to bridge the gap in waiting times for these formal supports, and to provide connection and some relief during the grieving process. 

What Can You Expect from Each Group

Each Outdoor Play Grief Support Group is 10 weeks in duration, 2 hours in length each week. Each week is planned with a loose structure around a topic related to grief and loss, but this topic flows in an unstructured way through children leading their play. The playwork staff are there to provide play prompts, and to facilitate meaningful conversations on loss and grief.

FAQs

What is an outdoor play grief support group?

A grief support group offers a different quality of support and connection that comes from being with people who have also recently experienced a loss. Grief support groups provide emotional support, validation, and support as an individual goes through the complex experience of loss and grief. Our outdoor play grief support group, in particular, utilizes play as a way to build meaningful connections and developmentally appropriate supports that can extend beyond the group. Our children’s program offers an optional parent/caregiver support group that happens simultaneously, to ensure families are being supported in a holistic way through their grief process.

Is it therapy?

No. A support group differs from therapy as therapy includes a concrete treatment plan that is always led by a licensed therapist, such as a psychologist. Our main objectives in the support group is to ensure children, and families, are not isolated in their experiences with grief and loss, and that overall well-being, coping and opportunities to heal are provided in a group context.

Can I get a receipt to claim through benefit programs?

No. Unfortunately this program is not deemed as therapy or counseling and therefore does not qualify to provide receipts for this purpose. We can however provide receipts as proof of purchase, which may be used for reimbursement if connected to other social service agencies. 

Who Runs the Outdoor Play Grief Support Groups?

Our programs are led by a variety of professionals including social workers, counselors, early childhood educators and playworkers. 

Who is a good fit for this program?

A child is a good fit for the Outdoor Play Grief Support Group if: 

  • They’ve experienced the finite loss of caregiver, close relative, or parent (such as death) 
  • They’ve experienced ambiguous loss of a caregiver, close relative, or parent such as loss of custodial access, loss of relationship due to addictions, or the rupturing and severance of a significant relationship that may be considered a disenfranchised loss
  • They've been explicitly told and know the cause of death, or the particular details surrounding the loss they’ve experienced so they can speak honestly and openly in the group about this
  • They are a willing participant of the support group with parental support. Participation in the Parent Group is highly encouraged, but optional
  • The parent or caregiver consents to supportive play and conversations regarding grief, loss and the adjacent emotions related to that

What’s the cost for this program?

Each 10-week program is $330, plus applicable taxes, (which equals $55 per session). This payment is due at the outset of the registration process, which is done online. As a not for profit we are aiming to bring in subsidy funding to ensure that ALL children have access to our programs. We do offer sliding scale options; if the cost is a barrier to you, please do reach out to have a conversation.

How do I register my child?

Our registration will open on August 1st. The intake process includes:

  1. Inquiry Form: filled out online. Received on a first come first serve basis {aka wait list}. We respond within 2-3 business days to schedule an intake call
  2. Intake/Discovery call 20 minutes
  3. Registration: If mutually determined a good fit for program, registration link will be sent {include the informed consent, registration forms, invoice, Parent Handbook}. Payment received at registration process. 
  4. Spot confirmed.  

Welcome and Information Package: 2 weeks prior to start of program: Site Map & Directions to get there

What ages do you work with?

As an organization, we work with children between the ages of 0-12 years old. Each grief support group has a specific age grouping, and so you’ll need to find the right group for your specific child.

What happens in each Session?

Group sessions begin with loose parts and free play until the children have adjusted to the forest setting and everyone has arrived. The session then moves to an Opening Circle that includes age-appropriate expressive experiences including storytelling, singing, and checkin’s. This helps to create a safe and comforting environment to help the children focus on, and begin to explore, the wide range of emotions they encounter during their personal grieving process. The stories and songs often involve themes that are related to this expression of emotion, as well as loss and grief. 

We then move back into free play or the group may decide to roam the land, in the form of a hike or guided walk to rocky mossy place. Group participants are encouraged to explore, express and share the difficult and often wordless feelings of grief with a wide variety of mediums and venues. Mobile loose parts are also usually carried on these adventures including clay, canvas, paper, as well as the loose materials that can be found and sustainably harvested in the forest. This supplies children with opportunities for all types of drawing, painting, sculpting and model making for the “hands-on” creative expressions of the children’s grief. Group members explore their more extreme emotions often through more adventurous and risky play, and are guided to express these emotions in a safe place with permission to let go of the loud, intense, often physical, and “wordless” feelings of grief. 

Once the group returns to the cabin area there are a variety of props available that promote dramatic exploration of memories and feelings including a ‘tickle trunk” for dressing up and role play, puppets, a stage, and other props for the children to use as their interest guides them. There are forts that the children build, as well as hammocks and already-built structures that provide children with a hiding place that permits children to retreat from others or their grieving process, to regulate and soothe themselves, or to just have solitary moments in nature and in a group. 

Other props that are often used are guided by children’s ideas and their imagination. For example, a group of children may decide to build a wind phone, a phone in the forest where they can speak to their loved one who has died. Another group of children may choose to create journals and a book of poems and photographs about their loved one who they’ve lost. All ideas are welcome and encouraged in play, and have supportive benefits to children’s process of grieving. 

Finally, each group ends with a Closing Circle and debrief, often ending with a song, poem or story. There is a very special grief coloring book that is sent home with each child to help them process and move through their grief between each session.

Do I have to participate as a parent/caregiver?

This is highly encouraged but optional. The Parent Group will be part guided time spent in nature, part peer support, and part facilitated dialogue. More information will be shared on the website regarding this in August, so please do check back.