Grieving Tree Craft

While I was in Idaho, I got an email from a psychologist who runs a group for parents who have lost a child. He came across my fall tree with tissue paper leaves, which gave him the idea for a project he and his fellow grieving parents could make. He envisioned writing phrases along the branches that represent the things about their children that are still growing. Along the ground would be the things they feel they've lost forever. He asked me for advice about what papers, ink, and glue to use that wouldn't smudge or hide the written words. 

I was honored that my simple craft inspired such a meaningful project. Rather than just make an educated guess about which materials would work best, I wanted to make an actual sample to be sure the parents' projects would be successful. He shared the seven things about his daughter, Ali, that are still growing, along with the five things he feels he has lost. I used them to make this:


As you can see, I used six phrases on the branches. I wrote the seventh (I love you always) repeatedly up the trunk of the tree. I'm calling this project a Grieving Tree. I've listed the exact materials I tested in the materials list below; feel free to use other items, but test them first to be sure your words don't smear. Affiliate links below. 

Grieving Tree Craft



Sketch a tree on a piece of watercolor paper. I did mine lightly in pencil, traced over the lines with the pen, then erased the pencil. Draw your own, or feel free to use my image below as a template. Print it at the size you want, then either cut it out and trace around it, or use this graphite transfer method

I tested multiple pens on a scrap piece of watercolor paper to find one that did not smear and wrote legibly and smoothly on the irregular surface of the watercolor paper. The Zig 0.8 worked beautifully. 

Next, watercolors. Notice that there are a few places where my colors blended a bit (above "sharing old stories" or I went over the lines ("I know you still exist"). This totally doesn't matter. Embrace imperfection, our most universal human quality. Besides, you can cover mistakes with leaves later. 

While the paint is drying, cut out leaves. I folded up tissue paper into 8+ layers before cutting. 

When the paper is completely dry (overnight is best), glue the leaves in place. I used a toothpick to spread glue onto one small area at a time, then placed the leaves by hand so they wouldn't cover the words. Use all five leaf colors in the tree. 

After the tree is full of leaves, glue leaves to the ground surrounding your words. Don't use the shades of green, as those wouldn't have fallen yet. 

What a privilege to make this tree in Ali's memory. I hope this project is meaningful to her father and his patients, as well as to any of you who might have come across this randomly. I am so, so sorry for your loss. 

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