Remembrance Quilts Help Grieving Children Cope

Armen Hareyan's picture

Traditional quilts have long been associated with warmth and comfort and are the remembrance quilts created by grieving children in the Good Grief support programs offered through the Ohio State University Medical Center's James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

Children ages 3 to 18 who are coping with the death of a loved one work closely with licensed art therapist Marie Lang and quilter Martha Petry to create the quilts, says Pauline King, a registered nurse and director of children's programs at The James.

"These quilts allow children to reminisce about the person who died," says King, who started the project 10 years ago. "Each quilt becomes a transitional object that is used to comfort the child at first, and then becomes a family heirloom that can be passed down from generation to generation."


Youngsters often don't have the emotional skills necessary for coping with the loss of a loved one, which is why such support groups are so important for the emotional well-being of the entire family, King says.

"When not allowed to grieve, children can have lifelong issues with addiction, failure in careers, difficulty bonding in long-term relationships and lifelong depression," King says. "This unique program helps children to express their feelings and grieve. If done with love, children can grow through adversity and become victors in their lives, rather than victims."

The center of each quilt features family photos that have been transferred onto fabric. The back of the quilt is made of favorite clothing items from the deceased loved one. In the past, T-shirts, dress shirts, blue jeans and pajamas have all been used in quilts, along with baseball caps, belt buckles, scarves and neckties.

In addition, the children are encouraged to bring in favorite mementos, such as watches, key chains, jewelry, glasses, wallets, trinkets or ID cards that can be attached to the quilt, King says. The children are encouraged to think about their loved one's favorite hobbies, sports teams, pets, holidays or colors when designing the quilts.

"By designing the quilt themselves, the children take ownership and pride in the finished product," King says. "Designing the quilt with their loved one's belongings, clothing or