Helping with Children and Grief:
The Last Jar of Jam

Helping with children and grief can be an especially difficult process. A child may have difficulty understanding what "death" means in the first place. Rather than sitting down with a child for a "serious chat" about death and dying, it can be helpful to illustrate concepts with a story. This method is powerful for helping with children and grief because it employs the use of imagination. Children are great at visualizing! So, I recommend that you simply read this story designed for helping with children and grief and then discuss the feelings described by the character in it. Try to relate this story back to the situation that is happening in the life of the child you're dealing with.

So, here is the story of The Last Jar of Jam

To say that Andrew loved his grandmother was an understatement. Grandma Jasper happily stepped in to help raise Andrew. It wasn’t that Andrew’s parents didn’t love him, they both had very demanding jobs requiring their undivided attention - if they wanted to keep their jobs, that is. Grandma Jasper spent much of her time teaching Andrew to read and write. After teaching Andrew that he could accomplish anything, she would reward him with the greatest treat ever: her homemade strawberry jam! It was as if it came from another world. Andrew loved the process more than the jam itself. He would help pick the strawberries at Beech Street Farm - an enchanted place which not only offered the largest and most delicious berries, but also an opportunity to play with the resident pygmy goats.

Andrew was always amazed at how productive his love for jam making could be. He and his grandmother could easily turn out 25 jars of jam in an afternoon. He and Grandma Jasper were always “in the moment”, talking about everything and anything while crafting their delectable treats. Grandma and Andrew shared their greatest joy when they delivered their culinary creations to those in need of a little sweetness.

Though happy to be with his grandmother, Andrew became more aware that something was wrong. Grandma Jasper began to slow down. An effortless joy was becoming a challenging obstacle. 25 jars of jam per afternoon became 15 jars, then 5. The day had arrived when Andrew had to say goodbye to his Grandma. She left Andrew with the separating words: “I Love You. Always be sweet”.

Grief, Loss, Sadness. No word could properly describe what Andrew was feeling - Grandma Jasper was his whole world. Aside from his memory of Grandma, all he could hold on to was the last jar of jam. He was afraid to finish it. Amidst his recurring sadness, Andrew accidentally knocked the jar of jam off the counter, causing it to shatter. Andrew just stared at the puddle of jam, sobbing uncontrollably. Before he knew it, Andrew was fast asleep ...

Andrew found himself lying on his back in the middle of the largest and most beautiful strawberry field. Staring down at him was Captain Nesty Von Resty. He was joined by a crew of Pygmy goats wearing chef hats and kitchen aprons! Andrew’s jaw dropped. “Hello Andrew, I’m Captain Nesty Von Resty and these little fellows are “Rumplers”, highly skilled kitchen assistants. We need your help”.

Von Resty continued: “I understand you have suffered a devastating loss. Your grandmother was very proud of you. We too loved her so very much”. Andrew was confused. “Your grandmother worked with me to help children who were experiencing challenging times. She was also the director of “JAM! WE’RE GOOD” industries, bringing sweetness to those in need. Now that Grandma has passed, we are in desperate need of a new director. Nobody knows her kitchen creativity better than you, Andrew. We and countless others need you.

Andrew cried out: “I can’t do this! I miss my Grandma, I forget the recipe. I can’t!” Von Resty smiled and presented Andrew with a special reminder. It was Grandma Jasper’s wooden spoon. It now had Andrew’s name on it with the following engraving: “Always Be Sweet.” “Your grandmother left this with me. She knew you would need encouragement. She wants you to know that she is just fine and that you will be with her again some day. But for now, you have work to do and people to help. It’s your choice Andrew.”

Andrew’s mind was made up. He and the Rumplers got to work. After what seemed to be an entire day’s work, Andrew was pleased and amazed that he had carried on the tradition of excellence his Grandma Jasper instilled in him. Even the “Panini Press,” the most hard to please food critics in the Land of Nesty, offered rave reviews of Andrew's creation.

Exhausted and happy, Andrew fell asleep. When he awoke, Andrew found himself back in his home. He looked to the nightstand and noticed Grandma’s wooden spoon, now his. Andrew not only overcame his doubt, he learned how to deal with the loss of his Grandma by carrying on her much needed work. “JAM! WE’RE GOOD” Industries would continue to help those in need of a little sweetness. Never again will there be a last jar of jam.

-Ted Stefanski

I hope you've enjoyed this story created for helping with children and grief. Aside from this story, the focus of which is helping with children and grief, you may also find helpful the other children's stories contained on this site. Here is a link to a story for helping children who have trouble falling asleep:

Trouble Falling Asleep

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by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.