Remember the Life, Recognize the Light

Author: Jonathan Kirkendall and Erin Hefner

Creating Luminaries with Children

This National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we remember the lives our loved ones lived. And we recognize the light they brought to our lives and our hearts.

Making memorials gives children an opportunity to creatively engage their memories of their loved one. Making luminaries is one of our favorite activities at TAPS Good Grief Camp; it’s a flexible activity that can be created by children of all ages, and adults alike, and the end result is really quite moving.

  1. Get a sheet of vellum paper (typically, it is available at office supply or craft supply stores). At Good Grief Camp, we use the 8 1/2 X 11-inch size.

  2. Lay the vellum sheet down so that the 11-inch side is at the top and bottom.

  3. Write your loved one’s name on the paper, and then create a tribute to that person. Vellum paper is nice and strong, so you can really use anything: crayons, magic markers, stickers, glitter, even a hole punch.

  4. Roll the paper and, using clear tape, tape the 8 1/2-inch sides together to create a cylinder.

  5. Place the cylinder over a battery-operated votive candle (the effect is even better if you can find one that “flickers”). The vellum paper will create a lovely soft glow.

At Good Grief Camp, we identify a place in a room (a table or a ledge) that will be used as a sacred space and left alone for the entirety of the event. Once everyone has created and placed their luminary, we turn down the lights and take a moment to recognize the light that has been brought into the room by our loved ones. We invite the child to say a word or a sentence about their loved one — or nothing at all if they have no words.

In your family, each member could say a few words about the loved one — or, just allow the child to put the luminary on the battery operated votive candle in silence. Sometimes, there just are no words.

From the pen of…

Jonathan Kirkendall is the TAPS Youth Programs Manager and Erin Hefner is the TAPS Youth Programs Project Manager.