Managing Grief During the Holidays

December 1, 2014

Kelsey Mitchell, certified child life specialist, facilitates

Healing Hearts, a grief support program for children.

The holiday season is an eagerly awaited time, especially for children. It’s a time filled with joy, excitement and wonder. However, for children and families who have experienced the death of someone close to them, the holiday season may bring more challenging emotions.

For some children, it may be the first Christmas without their mom or dad. Or maybe it’s the first New Year’s Eve without their brother to stay up with until midnight. Traditions are sure to have changed since the death and there’s no denying that each holiday without your loved one is going to be hard. While everyone may be feeling anxious about the holiday, children – who often feel guilt – need to be reassured that it’s ok to still be excited and enjoy the holiday.

Here are some ways to help children deal with grief during the holiday season.

  1. Acknowledge – Without your loved one, this holiday season is going to be different.
  2. Discuss - As a family, talk about worries and concerns, what you’re excited for and what traditions are most important.  Allow children to express feelings regarding their grief and the upcoming holiday.
  3. Ask for help - Let other family members know what they can do to help make the holiday special or to fill roles left voided by the deceased.
  4. Create new traditions - Work as a family to create new traditions to remember your loved one who died. Whether it’s eating their favorite breakfast, lighting a candle in honor of them, making a memorial ornament or continuing to hang their stocking on the mantle each year, there are many ways to remember the person who died.

The holidays may always be difficult for families who have lost a part of their story, but with time, new special memories can be created. 

Kelsey Mitchell is a certified child life specialist at Mercy Children’s Hospital. With special training in grief support, Mitchell facilitates Healing Hearts, a grief support program for children who have lost a loved one. For more information, please visit click here.

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