How Play Therapy Helps Children with Grief And Loss

Category: Play Therapy

Loss and grief have many faces. The loss of a loved one, a pet, experiences, relationships, and even a sense of instability can provoke feelings of loss and grief. For children with limited life experience and developmental inability to process and handle big emotions, it can be a challenging time in their lives.

As adults, we think of therapy as someone sitting in a room talking with a therapist about their challenges, but therapy with children requires a different approach. Children don’t have the language, the skills, or the developmental maturity to handle enormously difficult situations that they have no control over.

Here are a few ways that explain how Play Therapy benefits children experiencing loss:

  1. Play Therapy allows for the symbolic expression of feelings.

It is difficult for children to verbally express and describe what they feel. A child who lacks the ability to verbalize inner experiences and feelings will very often show it through play.

2. Play therapy provides opportunities to self-regulate strong emotions.

Young children have not yet fully developed their capacity for big feelings. Play therapy allows the child to engage in activities that naturally provide nervous system regulation. These become tools and coping skills that empower children to develop resiliency and mastery.

3. Play therapy provides a way to be in control of a scary situation.

Play therapy allows the child to create an imaginative scenario with dangerous elements. Still, because they are in control in a safe space, they can use their imagination to indirectly process feelings of fear or worry while remaining safe and in control.

 At Treehouse Family Counseling Services, trained professionals use Play Therapy to create a special time in a safe space to provide unconditional positive regard, warm acceptance, and build a strong therapeutic relationship. Emotional safety coupled with a strong therapeutic alliance is the secret sauce that allows healing play to take place. The child who carries heavy and complicated emotions can start to process them indirectly through the power of their imagination and therapeutic play. As a result, children become empowered to make choices and create changes that open pathways to hope, inner strength, and resilience.

Marina Blalock