Helping Youth Grieve the Past Year

Jul 8, 2021 9:00:00 AM / by Tera Michelson

COVID isn’t over, but your community may be starting to come back together. While nothing can replace a good therapist, there are some steps we can take to help our young people experience good grief. The only way through grief is through it. Reflection allows us to recognize it and all that comes with it and adds some coping tools to our life’s toolbox for the next time we spot it. Most importantly, we can link God’s presence and deep, unconditional love to this difficult time in the lives of our students and the life storms that are yet to come.

Here are some ideas to help students process the grief of the pandemic and begin a new season with a settled heart and renewed trust in our constant God, even as we step into more unknowns together.

Breathe Together

Study and explore the Hebrew word ruach and its meaning to God’s people over centuries. Lead your students in simple breathing exercises. Inhale deeply and exhale loudly. Breathe in the future; blow out the past. COVID has stolen the breath of so many, but it cannot steal the Spirit from us.

Host a Funeral

The church knows how to say a good goodbye. Wear black and meet for a traditional funeral, complete with candles, singing, opportunities to speak, and communion. Invite students to record their losses on paper and put them in a lidded container that you can burn or bury. End with a traditional potluck—jello is required!

Super Party

Revisit all of the events and traditions that you skipped in the past year with one giant celebration of ALL of them at the same time. Fill a box with decorations and items you would have used—holiday parties, mission trips, study groups, and pizza nights. Allow the students to unpack the box and unpack their emotions. Be sentimental and silly and experience the joy of being together.


Label strips of colorful ribbons with emotions evoked by COVID experiences: green ribbons for fatigue, blue for loneliness, yellow for anxiety, red for anger, etc. Leave unlabeled piles for students to name. Invite reflection on their mix of emotions by filling a small clear jar with those ribbons that represent them. Scream, cry, laugh, or whisper into the container. Drop a God bead inside each vessel to indicate how God is with us in the beautiful mess of it all.

May these experiences spark healing and growth in your youth community. May we all find peace in Christ as we grieve together.

Topics: Youth Ministry, Grief, COVID-19, Coronavirus

Tera Michelson

Written by Tera Michelson

Tera Michelson is a silver-haired youth leader, serving the church since 1994. She loves Jesus and teens. She is a pastor’s spouse, mother of three, and writes at the world’s loudest house on a hilly street in Ohio.


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