Playing through Grief: Helping Children Heal
December 12, 2012
A doctoral candidate in Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Care, Sargent searched for books, but she found that all of them were meant for an adult to read to the child.
As a pastoral counselor specializing in child-centered play therapy, she knew the importance of empowering the child to work through the grief and healing process. To guide grieving children through the emotions of loss, she created When My Mommy Died and When My Daddy Died.
“I saw a need,” she said. “Children grieve differently. They play through their emotions. I created a tool to help them process the grief and heal.”
One of her passions is child-centered play therapy, and Sargent’s training and expertise allow her to view a child’s play through a therapist’s lens.
“It was a natural progression to merge play therapy with a tool to help children grieve,” she said. “Adults may think a grieving child is fine because they are playing when, in fact, children play through all emotions. It is important to look at how they are playing. Are, for instance, the dinosaurs they are holding eating each other? Is a doll crying? How is the child expressing his or her emotions through play?”
Sargent’s unconventional children’s books encourage the children to color and write in the books. Through her books, Sargent guides the children through various activities such as drawing a picture of their parent with God or writing their parent a letter. The reader actively works and plays through the healing process.
“Grief is one emotion that everyone has to deal with but no one wants to discuss,” said Sargent, who wrote the books for children younger than 12. She has, however, spoken to adults who lost parents as children and they were touched by the books because they carried unresolved grief.
Although Sargent created When My Mommy Died and When My Daddy Died to help her friend’s children, the books have helped many children. She is currently completing her dissertation in the Pastoral Counseling department and works at the Loyola Clinical Centers as a clinical supervisor for her graduate assisantship.
A licensed professional counselor and pastoral therapist, Sargent is an ordained clergy and founder and CEO of A Servant’s Heart Youth Ministries Inc., and Ashes Rising Counseling Services, LLC. Her passion is working with children integrating spirituality into creative therapies such as play, sand, and art. The proceeds from the books will help build her dream to build and operate the KidsKampus–a residential treatment facility and retreat center for children. Sargent retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2003. She and her husband have been married almost 30 years and have one son who is a sophomore at Valdosta State University.