5 Things We Learned from Elmo and Jesse About Coping with Grief
Grieving can cause us to feel confused, scared, and sad. Children will handle the loss of a loved one differently than adults, but everyone’s feelings matter just the same.
Knowing that grief is a natural response to losing someone you love may not lessen the pain, but it can help families begin to look for support where they need it. And look for ways to cope and move forward together.
The friends on Sesame Street have discussed coping with grief more than once, offering opportunities to help families connect during such difficult times. For example, some of us may even remember how Big Bird learned about death for the first time in the episode “Farewell Mr. Hooper”. Here are a few more moments that help shine an honest, but hopeful light on how young children and families can grow around their grief—together.
1. Big Changes Can Make Everything Feel Uncertain and Wobbly
Knowing the importance of family connection during times of grief, Elmo and Elmo’s daddy, Louie, invite Jesse and Aunt Jill to come over for a playdate. As Jesse visibly struggles to build a block tower with Elmo, eventually the real reason why Jesse is so upset emerges—more changes since her dad died are making her feel wobbly like her block tower!
To talk through the issues, everyone present shares how they find stability from within—whether it’s being helpful or being a caring friend. See what ends up happening with Jesse’s block tower, right here. No spoilers!
Of course, every grieving family is different, feelings of grief will come and go. There are even more ways to encourage conversation together when navigating loss as a family. Here are some new ideas you may have not tried yet.
2. Loss Can Lead to New Beginnings
In the storybook “Something New,” Elmo’s cousin Jesse and her mom, Jill, reflect on what has happened in their lives since the passing of Jesse’s father, Jack. Together, they consider how big changes brought about by his death have also given them new opportunities to learn and grow.
For many of us, change can be difficult and seem synonymous with “bad” but that’s not always the case. There are all kinds of new things to explore, and a bright future ahead, even if that future is missing someone important to us.
Grief is a natural part of loss, and especially early on, and it can make it hard to be excited about new things. But once you and your family are ready, new beginnings can feel quite exciting too, as Jesse and Jill have taught us.
You can take time to appreciate the difficult, yet sweet, changes your family has gone through together using these coloring pages of Jesse and her mom, with prompts for ways to connect as you enjoy the activity.
3. Learning to Laugh Again Can Take Practice
In the midst of grief, the idea of feeling joyful again can seem impossible. And that’s okay. Honing in on little moments of levity—the things that made you smile (or just smirk!)—can help put you on the road towards finding joy again. Of course, leave it to Elmo and friends to help find smiles on what may be an otherwise sorrowful day. The printable activity The Giggle Game outlines a few simple starting points you can try with those you love.
4. Big Feelings Can Lead To Beautiful Expressions
Making art can be a wonderful—and beautiful—way to express our big feelings. The You Are Special To Me printable offers a place to jot down kind words and make a card to share with someone else who may be grieving.
Creating together can be helpful too! Which is why we’ve made an interactive where your child can join Jesse and Elmo in modeling clay using tools and textures and interactive gestures to make something as unique as the feelings they are going through.
5. Big Feelings Can Lead To Beautiful Expressions
Grief comes and goes and occasions like anniversaries and birthdays can bring up big feelings all over again. It can help to honor the person who died by sharing stories or doing things they loved to do.
When Elmo and his daddy host a birthday party for Uncle Jack, Aunt Jill, Jesse, Elmo and Louie do just that: they eat Uncle Jack’s favorite food, laugh about silly memories, and even head out to play a game of baseball at the park. Together they acknowledge that life without him is different, but it’s still worth living to the fullest.
Whether you’re grieving the death of a family member or another significant loss, know that you’re not alone. Others—including your friends on Sesame Street—have gone before you and walk with you now. Visit sesame.org/grief for more resources to help you and your children cope and thrive.
If you’re still looking for more information on how people process and handle grief, you can review a full article on the subject here: How Children Grieve and How to Help. Your neighbors on Sesame Street are always here to make sure you’re never alone.
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