Kara's Column > Poetry & Kids
My husband & I attended the 2003 MISS Passage Conference which is a bereavement conference for *both* professionals and families together. They also hold a children's bereavement camp along with the conference so that support is offered for the entire family. I was again overwhelmed by the level of care-giving that happens and is modeled in this environment.
There were many sessions where I was reminded that very often just sitting face-to-face to get at the heart of something, simply doesn't work. The event or trauma or topic is too emotional, too overwhelming, too much to get a handle on it with just conversation. And so there were many alternatives modeled at the conference and I thought of how we use poetry and art in that context.
When we work on our own issues or with others to help them through tough spots, it is often the poetry or journalling work that brings out the most poingnant aspects of their process. I can sit with someone and say, "What's bothering you today?" And they may tell me, express frustration, or just not quite find the words to explain. But when I ask them journal questions in writing or offer poetry exercises, it seems to give them the right-brain space, some quiet time, some self-care time to really express what it happening for them. Sometimes it is a poetic metaphor that comes out to say exactly how they feel. And I think when talking about bereavement with children, this is most often the case.
Children cannot always tell you exactly what is wrong. They don't yet have the words to give you the breadth and deepth of their full range of emotions. I mean think about it. When it comes to grief, most adults are ill-prepared for the waves of strong or unexpected emotions that come up. Well, imagine being a child dealing with those tidal-waves. So you offer up right-brain actions that might give kids an outlet. Some crayons and paper. A bit of word play with poetry. The results are often breath-taking.
There are many resources available for people who want to work with children to simply write poetry. Also a few things available for working with kids specifically about grief and loss. Thought to share a few of those here this month -- and also to encourage you to look at these resources for yourself. As much room and time and play and right-brain activity we give to the children in our lives -- so, too, we should give ourselves that space to express and identify what is happening for us.
Kaleidoscope of Grief from the MISS Foundation
What Color is Death, Daddy? from the MISS Foundation
The Writer's Workshop: Word Play, by Sally Wattles, Item #21330 from Pratt & Austin Co, Holyoke, MA
The Writer's Workshop: Personal Stories, by Sally Wattles, Item #21330 from Pratt & Austin Co, Holyoke, MA
Kindle The Fire: Poetry with Middle School Students (grades 4 - 8), by Shelley Tucker, from Good Year Books
Word Weavings: Poetry with Young Children (grades K - 2), by Shelley Tucker, from Good Year Books
Painting the Sky: Poetry with Children (grades 3 - 6), by Shelley Tucker, from Good Year Books
Miracles to you!
Kara L.C. Jones is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University where she honed her poetic craft under the mentorship of Jim Daniels. Her poetic and non-fiction works have been included in publications such as New Works Review, PoetsWest, Real Henna, Shared Heart Foundation's "Meant To Be", LightHearts Publication's "Soul Trek", MISSing Angels Newsletter, American Tanka, Mother Tongue Ink's We'Moon, Honored Babies, Cup of Comfort series, and more. Because she refused to give her grief writing over to the control of outside editors and publishers after the death of her son, she and her husband Hawk founded KotaPress in 1999 as a creative outlet for their expressive artworks. She has been facilitating online and in-person workshops for over 10 year, including sessions offered at the International MISS Conferences, WA State Poets Association Burning Word festivals, and Course Bridge.