Dia de los Muertos

by Christi Neville, LPC
This week’s Kids Who Kare group will be in keeping with our October theme: continuing our bond with our departed loved one, expressed in small group sharing, and creating a Dia de los Muertos “altar” to honor that special person.
Witnessing this process during our last group was inspiring.  In our small group discussions, each little face lit up when sharing something about their loved one…it helped other group participants come to know each other’s special person by name, and to hear something interesting or meaningful about their life.  It was truly delightful to witness how engaged the children were with creating their altars at the art table.  We will continue this process, to allow each child the chance to slow down and really engage in this sacred ritual.  We will complete our altars with candles, flowers, a few special sweet treats, and a joyful celebration.
Kids Who Kare has, in the past, celebrated in the Dia de los Muertos tradition around Halloween, and coming on board to the program this year, I’ve enjoyed learning the many fundamental differences between the two holidays.
close up alter
Though it is easy for many Americans to confuse Dia de los Muertos as being a Mexican Halloween, it is rather, a very beautiful and joyful tradition steeped in history as a time to remember and pay tribute to our departed loved ones. I see it as a holiday of love, rather than of fear…..the focus being a celebration of life, rather than the fear of death.  Many families observe the holiday with vibrant rituals of decorating sugar skulls, and making altars for loved ones with offerings of food,drinks, flowers, candles, colorful banners, photos or other objects. The purpose of the altars is not one of worship, but rather, of communicating love, remembrance, and connection. Though we often see the calavera (or skull in Spanish) as the wellknown symbol of Day of the Dead, its purpose is more about mocking death rather than scaring folks. There is oftentimes music, dance, and stories to commemorate the departed; many people use it as a time to complete any unspoken communication with loved ones, which is an important piece of healing, at any age.
photo 10
What I love about this tradition is that it allows us to not only connect in symbolic ways with our deceased, but it allows us to connect in present time with our surviving family members, which helps us feel supported.  So, when your child takes their altar home, may you enjoy connecting with each other as a family in sharing meaningful memories, and supporting each other as you walk this path of healing. 

About the Author

Christi Neville, LPC is The Christi Center’s Kids Who Kare and Peer Support Coordinator:

“My interest in grief and loss began in 1997, when a tragic accident claimed the love of my life, and catapulted me into a humbling journey of healing. An intern counselor at the time,  I  was astounded to realized our culture’s lack of understanding of grief, and as I committed myself to my own personal growth, my thirst for knowledge led me into professional realms as well.  After graduating with my Master’s in Counseling from The University of Denver in 1999, I began a holistic private practice in Colorado devoted exclusively to grief, and from that foundation, have led support groups for children, for surviving family members at Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and have run several hospice bereavement programs.  After relocating back to my native Texas, I was lucky enough to find The Christi Center, and am excited to contribute my blend of personal and professional experience as I support the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of loss.  Outside of work, I enjoy music, meditation, and spending time outside with my super-duper son, who reminds me daily to stay present to the magic and wonder of life.”

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