A Thanksgiving Grief Activity for Kids (and grown-ups)

Holidays and Special Days / Holidays and Special Days : Litsa Williams

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We have tons of ideas for remembering deceased loved ones at the holidays. We have suggestions for creating a practical plan for coping with the holidays. We have a post on making sense of holiday traditions after a death.  And today we have a grief activity to help support kids grieving during the holidays. 

The holidays are tough after the death of a loved one.  There are no two ways about it.  They are tough for grieving adults.  They are tough for grieving kids.  They are especially tough for grieving adults supporting grieving kids.  

It's important to let kids know that they can still enjoy the holidays while also acknowledging that certain parts will be hard. One way to do this is to create an arts-and-crafts activity to do with kids that can be lots of fun, while also remembering the person they have lost.

I saw this great tutorial a while back on making lanterns with kids out of old jars and tissue paper (discovered on Pinterest, obviously. Didn't know we were on Pinterest??  Get over to our page and follow us please and thank you).  Anyway, I immediately thought it could be adapted into a great grief activity for kids.

Really, though I am suggesting it here for Thanksgiving, I think this grief activity could be easily used at any time of year as an activity for supporting grieving kids.

Memory Lantern: A Grief Activity for Kids


  • Colored tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • Thin tip markers
  • Mason jar 
  • Glue or Modge Podge
  • Brush for spreading Glue/Modge Podge
  • (optional) Other seasonal decorations/stickers


1. Explain the Activity:

Start by letting kids know what they will be doing: making a lantern that can be used as a Thanksgiving decoration, or which can be kept private in their room if they prefer. 

Let them know you want these lanterns to be special lanterns, decorated for the holiday, but also with good memories of the person who they are grieving.

2. Cut Tissue Paper

Let the child choose the tissue paper colors they want to use. Cut the paper into 3 or 4 pieces that are big enough to draw on, and then some smaller pieces.

Note: You can start this activity with pieces of pre-cut tissue paper, perhaps if you have scrap tissue paper leftover from a previous project or if you are working with a larger group.

grief memory jar

3, Share Memories:

Ask the child to think of some of their favorite memories of their loved one. If they have a hard time, ask them more specific questions about things they would do together, places they would go, funny jokes they told, etc. 

Have them either write the memory or draw the memory on the tissue paper.  It is tough to write on tissue paper, which is why we recommend using markers.  

While they are drawing, ask kids to share more about their memories.

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Repeat this with several different memories.

4. Glue tissue paper

Glue some of your smaller tissue scraps to the mason jar. Do this by painting a small area of your jar with glue or Modge Podge (yes, you can use Modge Podge on glass!) and pasting them to the surface of the jar. Repeat until you have the jar covered.

Now glue your larger "memory" pieces.  Brush a light coat of glue/Modge Podge on top of the first layer of tissue and place the large "memory" tissue pieces on top, smoothing them out as you go. Be careful not to use too much glue or Modge Podge, as it could cause the ink to bleed.

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5. Let the lantern dry and place a real or LED candle inside.

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Alternately, you can fill it with battery-powered string lights.

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And that's it!  Easy, right?

Once the holiday is over (or if you are doing this at another time a year) this can become a great night light for your child's room - a comforting reminder of the person they loved.

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After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible, real-life book!

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2 Comments on "A Thanksgiving Grief Activity for Kids (and grown-ups)"

Click here to leave a Comment
  1. Kevin E Herbert  April 18, 2017 at 11:38 am Reply

    Link to other activities no longer functioning

  2. Beth Marshall  November 17, 2014 at 4:23 pm Reply

    I love this idea. Hands on. Gets people talking. Great way to preserve priceless memories and bring some smiles- even in a difficult season. Thank you!

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