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The importance of play to process grief in adults


In Ontario, I had a long career as a teacher before moving to Nova Scotia and becoming a death doula. One Spring Day, when my daughter had finished her second year of university, she came to my school to help with a school wide literacy event. We both went out for recess duty and watched the children playing outside. When we got home, my daughter remarked that she couldn’t remember the last time she played (past elementary school) without a care in the world, as the children at school did.


Play is very important for children. Through play, they develop physically and discover a slew of emotional skills, and they learn how to process the world. “Play is how children learn,” says Dr. Tiff Jumaily, a pediatrician at Integrative Pediatrics and Medicine Studio City in Los Angeles.


I’ve blogged previously about how I (and others) use play as a way for children to process grief and to heal emotional wounds. “Kids process their emotions and new concepts through play,” states Kim Wheeler Poitevien, a child therapist in Philadelphia.


As an adult, when was the last time you played? According to the article, The Benefits of Play for Adults (see source), play is crucial for children but is beneficial for people of all ages, The main things that play does is:

1. Relieve stress

2. Improve brain function

3. Simulate the mind and boost creativity

4. Improve relationships and your connection to others.

5. Keeps you feeling young and energetic

6. Helps develop and improve social skills

7. Teaches cooperation with others

8. Can heal emotional wounds


Picking up on the idea that play can heal emotional wounds, this concept begs the question of what kind of play can be used by adults to process grief and to heal emotional wounds? Adult play differs from children’s play. “…adult play often looks more like down time… One of the most common types of play adults engage in is making time for their social life. Getting together with friends over coffee, going out for dinner, hitting the trails together or hosting a game night are all ways adults use their social lives as a form of play.” states the blog by Miracle (see source). They also suggest that adults pursue hobbies and interests, organized sports, play board games, attend murder mysteries, sign up for challenges, play with animals, exercise outdoors and to spend time playing with children.


In conclusion, if you’re facing challenges in coping with your grief, you might consider calling on your social circle for a little added support and encouragement. Sometimes when you’re grieving, the weight of your worries may be too heavy a burden for you to carry alone. Our minds can become overwhelmed by grief. When we move out of grief it is often through playing with friends, laughing or physical activity.


Article Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/The Importance of Play: How Kids Learn by Having Fun

https://www.helpguide.org/ The Benefits of Play for Adults By Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph. D. and Jennifer Shubin

https://www.miracle-recreation.com/blog/play-in-adulthood

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