On All Saints Sunday we remember and pray for all members of the church who have died. The church marks this day by acknowledging the depth of our sadness but also the soaring hope of the resurrection in our Lord, Jesus Christ. Death and sickness have been ever-present in these many months of the pandemic. It is important to mark All Saints Day with love and care, especially for children who need special attention when they are faced with the realities of death. As children develop, language about death must be age appropriate and always paired with an emphasis of God’s abiding love for them. I talk openly with children about how they will live a long, full life and, when they are much older, they will die and live eternally with Jesus.
One way for children to express their feelings of grief and remembrance of their loved one is to create something tangible. Making a memory box is a project that we have used at our church.
Memory boxes can be made from any size box. I ask the children ahead of our event to write down some of the things they enjoyed doing with their loved one. I also ask them to bring a photo of the person they are remembering. I provide stickers and printed copies of clip art that goes with each child—like sports teams that they rooted for together, or pictures of activities like cooking, hiking, or traveling. Magazines can be a great place to find pictures that remind the children of the person they lost. We create a collage on the outside of the box and decoupage it so that it will be lasting and sturdy. The kids then can place items that remind them of their loved one in the box and add to it whenever they like. They can also take down the box and look through its contents whenever they are missing them.
One of the other items we place in the box is a letter to their loved one. Sometimes the children are too little to write so they color or draw their memories. They place their creation in the box. We offer prayers of thanksgiving for the lives of all those who have died. I follow up with each child from time to time and ask if they have added anything to their memory boxes and encourage them to do so.
We have an entire picture book on memory boxes, if you’d like to read more!